- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Occasionally, we'll pause here to take a quick look back at a select few moments in Cincinnati Bengals history.
As you well know, on the field that history has mostly been fraught with pain and defined by losing. But there have been many a joyous day, too, in the nearly 46 years the franchise has operated. We're here to relive it all; the happy times, the sad ones and the ones that simply make the Bengals one of the more unique teams in all of football.
March 19, 1996
It was on this particular election day that the idea of Paul Brown Stadium became a reality.
On the ballot for Hamilton County, Ohio voters was a resolution that asked them for a half-cent sales tax hike in order to build new stadiums that could separately house the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds. Until that point, the Bengals had only played in a home stadium that wasn't theirs outright. For the first two years of their existence, 1968 and 1969, they called the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium home. In 1970, they moved into Riverfront Stadium along with the Reds.
In the years before the 1996 election, the Bengals started hearing from a group in Baltimore that was desperate to bring in a team that could take the place of the Colts' franchise that had moved to Indianapolis just 12 years before. At the time, the idea of the Bengals picking up and moving to a new city wasn't a far-flung one. In the two previous years, the Rams, Oilers and Browns had all closed down operations in Los Angeles, Houston and Cleveland, respectively. Ultimately, it was the Browns who moved to Baltimore, becoming the Ravens a month before the 1996 election in Cincinnati.
That put Cleveland in play as another city in need of a football team. With owner and president Mike Brown's familial ties to the pre-1968 Browns -- his father Paul Brown founded the organization in 1946 and coached the team until his controversial departure in 1963 -- many thought he wouldn't hesitate at packing up the organization and sending moving trucks up Interstate 71 to Cleveland.
Brown wanted to keep the franchise in Cincinnati, though. He felt the 61 percent vote in favor of the tax increase helped him prove that.
So, on this date in Bengals history, the seed of Paul Brown Stadium was planted, as was Great American Ballpark's. In some ways, it was a bittersweet moment for the city. Yes, an NFL franchise was able to continue operating there, but the vote also signaled the death knell for a venue that held so many rich sports memories for the region. It was at Riverfront where the Bengals braved a minus-59 wind chill to beat the San Diego Chargers in the 1981 AFC Championship Game. It was at Riverfront where coach Sam Wyche got on an in-stadium microphone to berate trash-throwing fans, famously telling them, "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati."
It was also at Riverfront where the "Big Red Machine" hummed. The Reds appeared in five World Series while playing there, winning three.
The Bengals completed their move to Paul Brown Stadium in 2000. Since then, they have been in a few disputes with the county over issues concerning the building. Most recently, county leaders and Bengals officials have butted heads over the funding of a new high-definition scoreboard. The scoreboards haven't been upgraded since the stadium was built. Several teams have entered brand new stadiums in that time, while others have had their old scoreboards upgraded.
2dOhm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini