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Reds president predicts Hamilton County will be asked to renovate not replace riverfront stadiums

Phil Castellini says teams won't be 'seeking new stadiums elsewhere'
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Apr 07, 2022

CINCINNATI — Hamilton County’s most important tenants briefed local business leaders this morning on their aging sports facilities.

The good news: Neither the Cincinnati Reds nor the Cincinnati Bengals seem in any hurry to move out of town.

“You will not see, in my opinion, either team have an expectation or be seeking new stadiums somewhere else,” Reds President Phil Castellini told the crowd at the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 'Future of Sports' event at Hard Rock Casino downtown. “We will not do a move to the ‘burbs … One man’s opinion, both teams are going to be renovating their stadiums on site, on premise.”

Bengals Director of Content Seth Tanner said the team is looking to boost the pageantry and extravagance of the Paul Brown Stadium experience as it talks to Hamilton County about extending its 27-year lease, slated to expire in 2026.

“Every inch of that building is being re-assessed to make sure that it’s good for the next 20 years,” Tanner said. “You look at every stadium in the United States, video boards are getting obnoxiously big. Is that right for the Bengals? What’s going to actually enhance the experience for the fans inside there.”

In an interview after the event, Tanner said he’s not involved in lease negotiations. But he contributed ideas to a capital needs assessment that Hamilton County and the Bengals jointly funded as a starting point for lease discussions.

“It is at the forefront of everybody’s minds. We need to stay competitive with the rest of the league and what the other teams are doing,” Tanner said. “Our fans go to those other stadiums and they see those experiences and they have an expectation that needs to be met.”

Tanner contributed audio-visual ideas to Gensler Sports Capital study, which was commissioned in 2020 and has yet to be made public.

“A lot of stadiums have IPTV,” or streaming media that provides enhanced quality feeds without broadcast or cable delays, Tanner said. “That’s something we are actively researching … if you own a suite, you walk in, your name’s up on there. You have your custom treatment as to what you want on the TVs and what your experience should look like. And then in the sports betting world, other stadiums are looking at installing i-Pads that you can do active betting on.”

Castellini said the team has invested over $60 million since 2006 in Great American Ball Park to increase fan engagement.

“Almost every new area we’ve created in the ball park have been about these social gathering places where people want to congregate and not necessarily be fixed in a seat,” he said. “So, you have to study your individual customers, understand what their wants and needs are.”

The challenge going forward, he said, is to figure out “what is the next generation of the Reds stadium going to look like.”

Although he doesn’t think it’s likely to happen, Castellini said his dream upgrade for Great American Ball Park would be a retractable roof.

“If I could weather protect our stadium, I’d do 300,000-400,000 more seats a year no matter what the team was doing,” he said.

Tanner also a dream amenity for Paul Brown Stadium: "Heated seats."