COMMENTARY| Great American Ball Park along the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio is a great American ball park. With it's soothing vista and breezy feel, the home of the Cincinnati Reds is a fitting tribute to a city and fan base that has preserved the tradition of baseball since the first professional baseball team in America was fielded in Cincinnati in 1869. The park opened in 2003, replacing the circular Riverfront Stadium that was home to the Big Red Machine of the 1970's and the Little Red Caboose of the first half of the 1990's.
Many of the elevated seats in Great American Ball Park provide a scenic view of the Ohio River and the confluence of the Licking River with the Ohio. The vista opens through the right field corridor above the Riverboat Deck that replicates a steamboat equipped with stacks that fire flames when Reds pitchers strike out the opposition. The architects hit the ball out of the park with the design of Great American in how it both symbolizes the region and serves Reds Country with an intimate baseball game experience more akin to the roots of the game with a ball park rather than a stadium feel.
The Reds have also done an outstanding job making the game experience more appealing for kids. Unlike old Riverfront where access to the field level blue seats was guarded and blocked from public access, fans can venture down to the field level at Great American and have players sign autographs. The Reds have also created a wiffle ball field and a pair of batting cages below that for kids to get their swings in.
The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is another part of the ball park that provides both an intimate and kids friendly experience. The rich history of the Reds is on display with special exhibits, like this year's tribute to Reds great Joe Morgan, and the team's World Series championship trophies. There's also areas for kids to throw from mound distance and practice scaling a padded wall to rob hitters of home runs. The array of exhibits also includes the "Palace of the Fans Theater", where films of Reds history are played in a unique setting, and "The Reds are on the Radio", where budding broadcasters can simulate radio play-by-play.
The only really bad aspect of the ball park layout is the left field seating. Fans there are deprived of both the more scenic parts of the view, as well as the video board. Other seats that detract from the experience are field level seats along the inside of the aisles, especially farther down the left and right field lines, where the lack of incline makes it difficult to see through the coming and going aisle traffic.
Other than that, the only really bad part of the 2013 season at Great American is that fans no longer receive both a free scoop of local Cincinnati ice cream along with a personal pan size of local delectable pizza when Reds pitchers strike out 11 batters. Now, fans only receive the pizza.
There's really no ugly about the experience at Great American Ball Park or in the immediate environment. There had been significant construction just a couple years ago outside of Great American as part of The Banks riverfront project, but now, the residential and commercial phases of the development appear to be completed, transforming what was once somewhat drab into a revitalized, thriving area immediately surrounding the park.
Overall, Reds Country can attest to the fact that they have an absolutely beautiful place to watch their home team play, especially when that home team is as good as the Reds are.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds