On Saturday the Cincinnati Bearcats will be playing, presumably, their final game at Paul Brown Stadium for quite some time. On the field the season caromed very quickly between total disaster and inexplicable success.* Off the field the UC administrators used this as an opportunity to experiment with the game day experience for fans. They introduced Bearcats At The Banks, creating a bar based alternative for those who want to do something before the game, but don't necessarily want to brave the elements (not to mention turn away from their TV's) to tailgate.
* It is explicable, but that is a different topic for a different day.
I know that most readers of this site are Cincinnati based, and I would bet that a fair majority of you have been to a game downtown this year, and experienced Bearcats at the Banks. Or you have attended opening day and experienced the same phenomenon, but for a different event. You guys can skip the following paragraph; for the those of you who aren't from Cincinnati, here is what happens. The streets in the Banks are closed to traffic and open to pedestrians. Open containers are not, strictly speaking, legal* but so long as you don't imbibe and then go harass children or heckle people too loudly no harm will come to you as you wander from Tin Roof to the Holy Grail or any place in between. It is very much a live and let live situation, just like World War 1, but without that many Germans, Machine Guns or barbed wire....so not at all like World War 1 then.
* If I am wrong on this, please say so in the comments. One downfall of living so far from Cincinnati is that I am a little rusty on the statutes
Anyway, for the most part Bearcats at the Banks has been a success. The crowds have been pretty good from what I hear from reliable sources. The freeze your ass off weather that greeted me for the ECU game had a dampening effect on the crowds at the game I went to so I take Justin at his word. I am sure the crowd will be much larger for Saturday's contest, so I obviously encourage everyone to experience that for themselves.
I bring this up because there is steady buzz that the UC administration, both athletic and university wide, are in discussions about doing something similar for the 2015 season, but in Corryville. The plan as I understand it is to do to Calhoun Street exactly what they did East Freedom Way this year; shut it down to vehicles for a couple hours before the game to create a pedestrian zone and to reopen it to traffic at the conclusion of the event.
When you get people talking about their experiences attending UC football games in the past there have always been a lot of positives. The price is reasonable, the atmosphere in the stadium is more wholesome and, student section aside, less obviously booze soaked than it is attending a Bengals game. For different people different attributes rank more positively than others, but there is incredible uniformity to the negative attributes; lack of fan amenities,*difficulty getting into, moving around and exiting the stadium and lack of a traditional pregame experience.
* primarily restrooms, concession points of sale
The renovation of Nippert is obviously and spectacularly addressing the first two issues, but that third one is always going to be an issue. People do have the option to pull a Marshall and simply whip up in your RV and park it on Jefferson or MLK and tailgate then and there. Short of that the only way that UC could get that traditional tailgate atmosphere would be to hop in a time machine to the 80's. Call me a hippie, but I much prefer this to that. The decision to transform campus a traditional tailgate experience like you can find downtown is just not possible for UC football games.
Now shutting down Calhoun and making a block party...now that would create something better, and something that would be completely unique in the world of college football. Yesterday the Ohio State Senate passed a bill that would makes the idea of shutting down Calhoun for every home game very feasible.
The proposal would allow cities with populations of more than 35,000 to create entertainment districts, where Ohio's open container law wouldn't apply.
Patrons with a beer or alcoholic drink from one of the district's establishments could carry it with them outside as they visit other district businesses. The size of the municipal entertainment districts could not exceed a half mile.
If that proposal does indeed become law,* it would be logical to assume that the string of bars that have recently opened on Calhoun like the Brass Tap, the Keystone, the St. Clair would combine with established businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings and Macs to push for the designation of Corryville as such an entertainment area. Even if that proposal never becomes a statute UC is going to push for the zoning permission to shut down Calhoun on game days and make it a pedestrian zone. The proposal in Columbus simply makes the good sense of this idea plain and obvious to everyone.
*It passed 31-0 in the Senate, and there is a similar proposal pending in the state house.
The only conceivable objection that I can see to this is that it would create gridlock and chaos on one of the biggest and busiest thoroughfares in this area of the city. But that objection could only come from someone who has never tried to endure game day traffic on Calhoun and McMillan. The effect to traffic of closing Calhoun on game days would not be as significant as the effect of simply having the game on Campus. At the worst points in time you can comfortably walk from Classon Park to DeBouis faster than you can drive it.
This is such a great idea for UC, for the university community and the city at large, and I desperately want to see it happen. The only question is will it?