With the baseball dirt in the background, Bengalls tight end Tyler Eifert scored two TDs in the 2015 opener, which turned out to be Cincy's last game and only win in 11 games in Oakland.
PHOENIX - Bengals president Mike Brown has never been shy about being the only one in the room to vote against an issue when it comes before his NFL fellow owners.
But on Monday morning here at the Arizona Biltmore when they voted by 31-1 to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas from their ancestral home of Oakland, he wasn't the dissenter.
After the vote Brown said he wasn't concerned that the NFL moving into the gambling capital of the world despite its strict rules on the subject.
"There are all kinds of things in this deal intended to police that," Brown said. "I assume there won't be problems. We have a gambling casino in Cincinnati and within 100 miles I don't know how many there are. The problem is probably not unique to Las Vegas."
Miami's Stephen Ross cast the nay vote because he said all efforts between a team and a community should be exhausted before a franchise moves. But Brown, who has been there, sided with Raiders boss Mark Davis.
"It was destined to pass. For me it was a hard choice. I understand the reasons why," said Brown, grateful of the stadium deal the Bengals were able to strike with Hamilton County 20 years ago.
"The Raiders tried for over a decade to fix their situation in Oakland and they weren't able to. Back (20) years ago we were. So we were lucky. We did what we wanted to do, which was stay. They felt they had to do something that would work better for them long term. I can understand why they felt that way. I don't think it was an easy decision for them. I know it wasn't. They felt they had to do what they did."
It was at these meetings at this site 22 years ago in the "Biltmore Bulletin," that Brown first publicly raised the problem the Bengals faced with a 1970s multi-purpose stadium unable to generate 21st century revenues in the booming salary cap era. Five years later in 2000 the Bengals and Hamilton County opened Paul Brown Stadium in what remains one of the best examples of community support in the league.
"When you went out to play in the coliseum in Oakland you could understand this was a stadium that was a contemporary of old Riverfront stadium," Brown said of one of the last stadiums that shares with a baseball team. "Put yourself in their shoes. How would we be doing in Cincinnati if we were still in Riverfront Stadium? It would have been impossible. That's what they were facing in Oakland. They had to correct it."
Brown went as far to visit Baltimore to stake out a possible move in 1995, but he made it clear from the start his goal was to keep the team in town. Now with three moves in the last year netting each team a combined $53 million (the Rams leaving St. Louis for Los Angeles, the Chargers leaving San Diego for Los Angeles joining the Raiders), it's a reminder not everyone gets it to work like Brown and his community did.
"It's worked out successfully in Cincinnati. It was not easy to do," Brown said. "We built a new stadium for $350 million. That was considered insane by some people locally and yet today it looks like a pretty good bargain. In as much the one they're talking about in Las Vegas is in the $1.4 billion range and the one in LA is $2 billion. We got at it at the right time and made it possible to stay in Cincinnati."
The Bengals, who broke into pro football with the Raiders in the AFL West Division in 1968-69, were winless in Oakland in 10 games until what turned out to be their last game there, a 33-13 victory in the 2015 opener.