That wasn't so bad, right? 31,911 people would agree with me, I think. Sure, it wasn't the best atmosphere I've ever experienced at a University of Cincinnati football game, but it was suitable. And considering the circumstances, I'll take suitable. Suitable works this year. It has to, after-all.
Let's play a quick game. Close your eyes and think about the Bearcats' home football attendance last year. Cincinnati started the 2013 season with an above capacity, record-breaking crowd against Purdue and closed the season with a sell-out against Louisville. Can you guess their average attendance? It was 31,771.
And that was a 9% increase over the 2012 home attendance average.
Fast forward to this past Friday night where the Bearcats were directly competing with high school football, playing a 1-1 MAC squad, and opening in a make-shift "home" stadium. And more people showed up to watch Coach Tuberville and team on Friday than the Bearcats averaged all of last year.
Plus, I didn't see or hear many Toledo fans at Paul Brown this past weekend. If they were there, they did a great job of hiding. We've come a long way, Bearcat fans, and we're continuing to make progress.
Here's my feeble attempt to outline the pros and cons of the Bearcats' first 2014 home game at Paul Brown Stadium:
- Students: When I heard student tickets were still available as of Thursday morning, I was worried. And I was wrong. The students more than sold out their allotment, were on-time, banged a million of those thundersticks together, and didn't stop yelling until the 4th quarter. Hats off to UC for providing those thundersticks, and hats off to the students for doing their job right out the gate.
- Tailgating Options: I love Clifton as much as the next UC fan, but this really isn't close. Whether you're tailgating at Longworth's before the game or bar-hopping on the Banks, the tailgating options in downtown Cincinnati are superior to Clifton. Sorry - not sorry.
- Parking: This almost goes hand-in-hand with the above bullet point, but there are just a ton more parking lots around Paul Brown Stadium. Heck, I parked in a garage below the Banks and had no issues getting out after the game and navigating home.
- Club Seats: And the other seats in general, actually. I've never sat in the club section at Paul Brown, but I know a handful of people who loved it. I enjoyed a padded chairback, myself (as opposed to a metal bleacher). And the crowd in the club section looked better than it did during the Bearcats' more-recent games at Paul Brown.
- Cell Phone Service: When 30,000+ show up at Nippert, I usually have a tough time getting texts through and for Twitter to load (the only downside to Verizon, so far). I had no issues on Friday night downtown, and it was great.
- In-Game Atmosphere: We all knew this would be a problem before the game started. Nippert Stadium, once ranked as the best stadium in the Big East, hosts an incredible in-game atmosphere. Loud, intimidating, and almost impossible for visiting teams to escape with victory. And Paul Brown ain't no Nippert. 32,000 fans at Nippert sound louder than 65,000 at Paul Brown. The crowd noise was pretty weak on Friday, all things considered.
- Stadium Signage: Never did I realize how much concrete takes up the walkways, restrooms and concession walls at Paul Brown. That stadium felt sterile and really lacks a personality. I know the season's already underway, but it'd be cool if UC could print and hang a few banners near the main entrances of Paul Brown to help better brand the stadium as their "home" turf.
- In-Game Access to Stats: I searched and searched for yardage and time of possession stats - even timeouts left - and to no avail. The Bengals' video boards look really outdated, and they don't keep any stats up on the ribbon boards besides down and distance. So maybe I didn't want to be constantly reminded of the Bearcats' 3rd quarter yardage, but it would've been nice for the other 75% of the game.
All in all, I actually enjoyed my experience at Paul Brown, but I'd trade it in a heartbeat for the ambiance a packed Nippert provides. It's hard to put into words how great Nippert is when it's filled to the brim, and I'd gladly wait a little longer in a bathroom or concession line in order to be a part of the game time atmosphere in Clifton. Your thoughts?