Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field Implosion from Mt. Adams

Nearly 15 years later, a perspective of an historic Cincinnati event retrieved from family video archives.

- Riverfront Stadium circa 1992. Image via Wikipedia

My uncle passed away in 2014, way too soon. He was a wonderful human being with a love for baseball that came second to how he cared for those around him. I remember being overly excited in 2008 when I finally gained a true understanding and love of the game. I couldn’t wait to talk history with him in detail. I always liked baseball, but at that point in my life it became something more. His appreciation for clubs, players, and the stories of the sport was something I always admired. My uncle was also an incredibly generous person, whether he was doling out a Christmas gift or solid career advice. Once, he welcomed our family to his apartment, on the upper floors of the Highland Tower in Cincinnati’s Mt. Adams neighborhood.

- Some Riverfront/Cinergy seats I own along with a seat from the Cincinnati Gardens.

My parents woke up my sisters and I early, it was still dark out. We put on winter clothes and shuffled outside to the balcony, looking down at the city below. We weren’t the only ones, every nearby balcony was filled with onlookers gazing in the same direction towards Riverfront Stadium, known in its later years as Cinergy Field. In a few short minutes, the shell of the stadium that remained would be nothing more than a pile of rubble, its modern replacements flanking its sides.

Riverfront was where I saw my first baseball game. I was too young to understand why everyone was upset when they changed the name to Cinergy Field, but I still liked the place nonetheless. I enjoyed Bengals games and Reds games there. I always thought it was interesting to see the faded lines of the Bengal's gridiron in the Reds outfield, not yet old enough to long for natural grass or to realize how abysmal astroturf was. I liked that you could sit in the blue seats and look straight up, seeing the perfect circle of the stadium's outline. I liked the bridges that carried you over the highway from the city, the ones that echoed with the guys who beat plastic buckets in a rhythm for tips. I can still remember the policy audio recording that played out front, the peeling paint of the parking garage entrances, and the First Aid room my Dad and I visited when I threw up during a Bengals pre-season game against the Jets.

- Typical view of the stadium walkways which spanned Fort Washington Way below. Image via Jake Mecklenborg/

I wasn’t born when the Freezer Bowl happened, or when The Big Red Machine was winning back-to-back Series. I was barely a year old when Sam Wyche decried Cleveland and the 1990 Reds went wire-to-wire. Yet, I had my own happy memories from the place even if the teams I saw in the building's last waining years weren’t anywhere near as good as those who came before.

- My grandfather, myself, and my Dad at my first Reds game in 1991.

I was sad to see the place go, but excited for the two newer stadiums and the massive redevelopment project they represented. Even at 13, I was able to see the bigger picture, the expansion of the city grid, the hope for the future, the chance to completely revitalize what I saw and still know as home. I enjoyed watching Riverfront/Cinergy quickly disintegrate in dramatic fashion as we looked on from the balcony.

Here’s a video my Dad shot that day. My mom came across it and converted it to a digital file while going through family movies. There’s plenty of videos documenting the stadium’s implosion on the internet, but I’ve never seen one from Mt. Adams. So, enjoy.

Fifteen years later, here’s what it was like to watch Cinergy Field get blown up on a cold morning from above the city:

Some interesting things to note in the video:
  • The RE/MAX hot air balloon probably had a better view than us.
  • Jeff Ruby's Waterfront hadn't floated away even once yet. 
  • Queen City Square/Great American Tower doesn't exist yet, it would've partially blocked our view if it had. 
  • The Western And Southern spinning clock is working (not always the case these days) and displaying 34 degrees.
  • Great American Ballpark's western concourse isn't completed yet. It would open with the new stadium's second season in 2004 after all the remains of Riverfront/Cinergy were cleared.
  • The downtown casino was still a decade away from opening and Broadway Commons is just a massive parking lot (that was also once the proposed site for the new Reds stadium).
  • As the video goes on and my Dad pans the camera around, the massive dust cloud moves northwards and looks more like a thick fog.
- Promotional cards advocating for a baseball stadium at Broadway Commons, which is now the site of JACK Casino after the stadium went to the riverfront. 

These days, almost all of the circular stadiums (also known as "cookie cutters") that used adjustable box seats to accommodate football and baseball are gone, disused, or are occupied by a sole tenant:
  • The Oakland-Almeda County Coliseum will lose the NFL's Raiders when they move to Las Vegas (but will still host baseball's Oakland Athletics for now).
  • Washington D.C.'s Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium just lost its sole tenant, Major League Soccer's D.C. United. 
  • Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego no longer hosts NFL or MLB teams, but does still host the San Diego State Aztecs who have expressed interest in building a new venue on the site. 
- Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field as seen in 2000. Image via Jake Mecklenborg/