Today, April 3, 2017, the Cincinnati Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies at home. This will be the first game of the 2017 season. While the Reds had a less than stellar 2016 season, fans entering Great American Ballpark today will be entering with high hopes. They will also be entering the latest stadium in a series of stadiums that go all the way back to the first games of professional baseball.
Opened in 2003, and named after Great American Insurance headquartered nearby, the stadium is one of a string of attraction along the ever changing riverfront. It’s neighbors U.S. Bank Arena, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Paul Brown Stadium all share the Central Riverfront Garage. The garage has plenty of parking for any game. The garage is very well organized with signs telling which structure is nearest and every exit has a street map telling what section it is and how to get back to it.
The stadium itself is surrounded by an open concourse with a gift shop and Hall of Fame Museum on one side and amazing views of the river on the other. Once inside the main gate fans will find a large open hallway with shopping on the left and a kids area on the right. The layout is simple and circular. Walking in one direction will take a fan all the way around the park and back to where they started. This is a great way to get exercise during the game, but does not offer 360 degree views of the field like Fifth Third Field or other smaller venues.
The shopping inside the park is good, but the main gift shop is right outside the entrance and connected to the Reds Hall of Fame Museum. Inside the park smaller shops are spread through out with plenty of opportunities to pick up a hat or shirt. There is even a shop selling game used items, such as balls and bases.
Food is abundant at Great American. Most of the traditional ballpark fare is sold at concessions stand ringing the park. Some local items, like chili and goetta, are sold at specialty stands. Fancier sit down bars and restaurants are available too. A market near the entrance sells fresh fruit and bottled drinks. Almost any dish a fan might want is available. While the prices are ballpark prices the portions are huge and one dish will fill a person up. The value is the same as most any restaurant but the unique variety and locale make a meal a must.
The overall theme of the stadium seems to be a river dock during the age of steamboats ( and baseball). The venue can be light on the theming in some places, it makes up for it in others. Between the two scoreboards is a multilevel bar and patio in the shape of a steamboat. The paddle wheel of the boat is the National Steamboat Memorial located across the street. The smoke stacks billow steam for every Reds home run and fill the sky with steam and fireworks after a win. From certain seats working steamboats can even be seen giving passengers rides up and down the river. Fans will have a hard time forgetting that Cincinnati was once queen of the Ohio river and that steamboats made this possible.
With all that is available downtown Great American will be a highlight to an over filled day of fun for any fan, even if the team is having an off year.