Riverfront Stadium (1970–1995), later known as Cinergy Field (1996–2002), was the home of the Cincinnati Reds National League baseball team and the Cincinnati Bengals National Football League team. Located on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, the stadium was best known as the home of "The Big Red Machine," as the Reds were often called in the 1970s. Construction began on February 1, 1968 and was completed at a cost of less than $50 million. On June 30, 1970, the Reds hosted the Atlanta Braves in their grand opening, with Hank Aaron hitting the first ever home run at Riverfront. Two weeks later on July 14, Riverfront hosted the 1970 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. This game is best remembered for the often-replayed collision at home plate between Reds star Pete Rose and catcher Ray Fosse of the Cleveland Indians.
In September 1996, Riverfront Stadium was renamed "Cinergy Field" in a sponsorship deal with Greater Cincinnati's energy company, Cinergy Corporation. In 2001, to make room for Great American Ball Park, the seating capacity at Cinergy Field was reduced to 39,000. There was a huge wall in Center Field visible after the renovations, to serve as the batter's eye. The stadium was demolished by implosion on December 29, 2002.
Riverfront was a multi-purpose, circular "cookie-cutter" stadium, one of many built in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s as communities sought to save money by having their football and baseball teams share the same facility. Riverfront, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Jack Murphy in San Diego, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Shea Stadium in New York, RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C., and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia all opened within a few years and were largely indistinguishable from one another; in particular, it was often confused with fellow Ohio River cookie-cutter Three Rivers Stadium by sportscasters because of the two stadium's similar names and similar designs.
The site on which Riverfront Stadium sat originally included the 2nd Street tenement, birthplace and boyhood home of cowboy singer and actor Roy Rogers, who joked that he was born "somewhere between second base and center field."
Big Red Machine:
Riverfront Stadium quickly earned a place in Cincinnati's century-long baseball tradition as the home of one of the best teams in baseball history. The World Series had visited the Reds' previous home, Crosley Field, just three times in its final 31 years, (1939, 1940, 1961) but it came to Riverfront in its first year (1970) and a total of four times in the stadium's first seven years, with the Reds winning back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1976. The World Series would return in 1990, with Cincinnati winning the first two of a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics at Riverfront.
Baseball purists disliked Riverfront's artificial turf, but Reds' Manager Sparky Anderson and General Manager Bob Howsam took advantage of it by encouraging speed and line drive hitting that could produce doubles, triples and high-bouncing infield hits. Players who combined power and speed like Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Ken Griffey, Sr. thrived there. On defense, the fast surface and virtually dirtless infield (see photo) rewarded range and quickness by both outfielders and infielders, like shortstop Dave Concepción who used the turf to bounce many of his long throws to first. Catcher Johnny Bench and first baseman Tony Perez played here. The artificial turf covered not only the normal grass area of the ballpark but is usually the "skinned" portion of the infield. Only the pitcher's mound, the home plate area, and cutouts around first, second and third bases had dirt surfaces. This was the first stadium in the majors with this "sliding pit" configuration. The new stadiums that would follow (Veterans Stadium, Royals Stadium, Kingdome, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Skydome) would install sliding pits as the original layout, and the existing artificial turf fields in San Francisco, Houston, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis would change to the cut-out configuration within the next few years.
Riverfront hosted the MLB All-Star Game twice. First in 1970 with President Richard Nixon in attendance, and again in 1988.
When the Bengals moved to Paul Brown Stadium in 2000, the Reds were left as Cinergy Field's only tenant. Prior to the 2001 baseball season, the stadium was remodeled into a baseball-only configuration, and the artificial surface was replaced with grass. To allow room for the construction of Great American Ball Park (which was being built largely over the grounds the stadium already sat on), a large section of the left and center field stands were removed and the distance to the fences was shortened by five feet. The new Great American Ballpark and old Riverfront Stadium were 26 inches apart at its closest point during this time. Consequently, in its last years, the stadium achieved an openness and a degree of aesthetic appeal that it had lacked for most of its existence. In the Reds' final two seasons in the stadium, ongoing construction on Great American was plainly visible just beyond the outfield walls while the team played their games.