What a tremendous night of football in the Queen City as FC Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati debuted their new digs at Nippert Stadium. Despite the cool April weather, nearly 15,000 fans packed the house as the Orange and Blue came home victorious 2-1 over the Charlotte Independence. Even though several first night issues cropped up around the stadium, I’d say it was a successful evening for all involved. Here are a few of my opening night observations from the cheap seats.
I can only speak from my experience, but I was fortunate enough to get a parking pass this season. But, I didn’t have said parking pass prior to Saturday night’s game. Meaning I needed to find a place to park so that I could head over to will call to pick up my passes. Pulling into Corry Blvd, immediately there was a long line of people trying to find parking. Fortunately there was a sign clearly marked advising fans who are paying for parking to go in the left lane, and people with passes should go in the right lane. I thought that this was a good step by the club and the campus to allow traffic to keep moving. Fortunately on the ramp down to the South entrance gate there was some open space to park behind a service vehicle. One of the FC Cincinnati ticket takers standing nearby was very helpful and pointed out where will call was for me. When I asked if I could leave my car here for a short amount of time to pick up my passes, he was very helpful and allowed this to happen. Once I got my passes and parked my car in the Calhoun garage, everything was a breeze. For those who do not have parking passes, I do recommend trying to get to Nippert Stadium a little earlier. Saturday night featured a UC baseball game and a concert on campus so traffic was a bit hectic.
Kids ZoneNice touch FC Cincinnati! I hope that the Kid Zone is that active for every home game. Once we parked our car, my son and I walked around for a bit. We went to the Kid Zone and he loved it. There were some soccer skill games he participated in and he even won a blow up soccer ball beach ball and a size 3 soccer ball. Even though he’s outgrown the size 3 he was still pumped he won. That’s all he talked about up until kickoff. It was great seeing all the kids out there playing around, enjoying the games despite the cold weather.
Concession Stands/Merchandise Tents
Whoa boy. This is where things got a little intense for me on Saturday night. My family was finally able to meet up so we could make our way into the stadium. Once at our section in 118, my friends Brian and Christy along with my son and I, hit up the nearest concession stand. Unfortunately every single line was at least 20 people deep waiting for food and beer. We got in line around 6:30. We missed the tifo unveiling, the flyover (we at least heard it), and the anthem. Fortunately for my son and I we were able to get to our seats just in time to see kickoff. My friends followed a few minutes after and when they reached our seats, they filled us in on their warm beer. Not sure if it was warm beer or if it was just that cold it felt warm. The merchandise tent also had super long lines, which is to be expected for the first home match. Everyone wants to have the newest FC Cincy gear. I know I wanted some! Hopefully for the next match they’ll have extra merchandise areas for fans.
Let me first start by saying this, I wasn’t in the Bailey. I was on the complete other end of the stadium. I was standing on Corry Blvd when I watched as supporters groups (The Pride and Die Innenstadt) made their march into Nippert Stadium. That was very cool to see. With that said, during the game, I RARELY heard the Bailey. I know I’m nitpicking here, and I know it’s the first week so it’s not like chants are organized at this point, but I was a little disappointed. I know they were loud, I know they were having a blast. I could see it from where I was sitting. I was just hoping for an even louder experience. That day will come though. I’m hoping for something like Anfield has with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and that’s very tough for me to say considering my Premier League allegiance. The bigger disappointment though comes from fans outside The Bailey, even in my section of 118. It’d be nice if the SG’s could come together to unite as one and create one big anthem that everyone in the stadium could sing, children included. If the club did it, it’d come off as being not very authentic. It needs to come from us fans. Given where I was sitting though, it looked like The Bailey was the place to be without question.
FC Cincinnati Staff
I used to work in Customer Service for a long time so I know good Customer Service when I see it. I can’t tell you how many times I walked past an employee of FC Cincinnati and overheard them say “Thank you for coming out tonight”. They said it to me a few times, and I heard them say it to others nearby. From the ticket scanners walking into the stadium, to the staffers handing out the commemorative tickets as we were walking out. Every single employee was extremely courteous. Even FC Cincinnati owner Carl H. Lindner III said hello to me as he walked by me at the South Gate. If I could take that moment back, I would have told him thank you for bringing us this club. Hindsight is 20/20. FC Cincinnati has first class ownership, a first class GM in Jeff Berding, and a first class staff.
The result was great, and Saturday night was awesome. My wife, who is not a soccer person whatsoever, was dreading the 3-hour drive from Toledo and having to sit in the freezing cold for the match. Even today she made the comment, “That was pretty cool.” Despite the issues surrounding the stadium, it was a first class evening, one which I will never forget. Bring on Louisville!