Paul Brown Stadium is the home of the Bengals on Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront. PBS, as it’s known for short, opened in 2000. The first game was an Aug. 19 preseason contest vs. Chicago, a 24-20 Bengals win. The first regular-season game was a 24-7 loss to Cleveland on Sept. 10.
Named for the NFL legend who was Bengals founder, chief executive and first head coach, the stadium has won numerous honors and has helped keep Cincinnati in the national sports spotlight.
The stadium features a sleek design and blends seamlessly with the city, open to views of downtown to the north and the Ohio River to the south.
National recognition for PBS has come in various modes. In 2007, PBS was the only football stadium to make a Harris Interactive list of “America’s favorite 150 buildings and structures.” PBS ranked 101st on a list whose range included all manner of major structures — skyscrapers, museums, churches, hotels, bridges, national memorials and more. No other football stadium was voted among the top 150, and among all sports venues, only two historic baseball parks — Wrigley Field and the old Yankee Stadium — ranked higher than PBS.
In 2002, in an industry rarity, the stadium was singled out by both of the nation’s premier architecture magazines, Architectural Record and Architecture. The two stories came on the heels of PBS receiving the 2001 Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects (California Council). It marked the first time an NFL stadium received the award from the prestigious AIA.
The acclaim began well before the stadium’s 2000 opening. In May of 1998, studies of PBS’ design led to it being among 15 winners from a field of more than 300 projects for an American Architecture Award.
In closer-to-home reaction, the stadium also debuted to rave reviews.
After a tour of PBS in June of 2000, some two months before the first game, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty wrote: “The place is gorgeous. If the Bengals were trying to butter me up by giving me the tour, it worked. Every seat is good.”
At roughly the same time, Cincinnati Post columnist Bill Koch wrote: “The views come at you from every angle. Unlike Cinergy Field (formerly Riverfront Stadium), which cut you off from the city once you were inside, this stadium celebrates its setting.
“From the west side, you gaze into Price Hill, with Union Terminal off in the distance. From the east, you walk through what will be the club lounge and see the river, the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the downtown skyline. You are not in Anytown, USA. You are unmistakably in Cincinnati.”
Mike Brown, son of Paul Brown and the club’s chief executive since 1991, puts it this way: “In the best stadiums, the experience of just walking in wakes you up. It’s exciting just to be there. From day one, we made this a goal for our stadium. We want it to be the best setting for pro football in the country, and we think our fans will agree that it is.”
Though proud of PBS’ much-hailed outer design, the Bengals are prouder still that the stadium has fulfilled a primary goal of serving as a premier venue for watching football. Almost 70 percent of the seats are along the sidelines, positioned for the best possible sight lines to the action.
PBS also serves as a link to the past. In an era when many sports facilities carry corporate names, Cincinnati’s stadium bears only the name of Paul Brown.
“We like the fact that our stadium name honors the tradition of the NFL,” says Mike Brown. “Many names now don’t have anything to do with the game.”