As anyone following my Twitter feed or the landing page for it on smartmeetings.com knows, I was recently hosted in Cincinnati to explore the burgeoning downtown district there. The urban center is seeing a tremendous amount of rejuvenation thanks to more than $2 billion invested by the city and local businesses.
The latest infusion came partly in preparation for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game that Cincy hosted in mid-July, though the rejuvenation is mostly due to an incredible sense of pride of place I observed among locals in the Midwest city—which is steeped in more American history than I ever would have imagined.
An example of that pride (and history) is the lingering artwork promoting baseball’s mid-summer classic, from signage around Great American Ballpark, where the Mid-Summer Classic was played, to the mustache-shaped benches that promoted the coming of the game and still support locals and visitors who need a rest while walking along the downtown sidewalks. The benches are in homage to the old mustachioed, baseball-headed mascot of the Cincinnati Redstockings, America’s first all-professional baseball team. Many individuals and businesses have purchased the benches since the game, either to have in their homes or keep outside their offices.
To paraphrase one of my hosts from Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau talking about the all-star signage outside the baseball stadium, they’re going to keep it up there until it falls apart. People selling peanuts on the streets near the ballpark to throngs of fans dressed in red and white before a game—even when the Reds are pretty much out of contention—shows how much Cincinnatians love and are engaged with their sports culture.
Beyond sports, the Queen City has helped invest in a plethora of revitalizations that brought new restaurants, rooftop lounges, parks and more. Spots such as Moerlein Lager House in the Banks entertainment district showcase not only inventive entrees such as squash wellington, but also sweeping views of the Ohio River and the gorgeous John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge which has spanned the river since construction completed in 1866—and was an inadvertent prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge. (There’s that sense of history again).
The craft beer scene has exploded in Cincinnati over the past few years, and intersected with the city’s history at Taft’s Ale House in the burgeoning Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Taft’s is set in what was once a humongous church that had fell into such disrepair that the roof collapsed. The bar’s owners rebuilt the venue to its exact previous specifications, and pours house brews such as Nellie’s Keylime Caribbean Ale and Belgian Banger with gavel-shaped draught handles that represent Cincy native and former U.S. President Howard Taft’s days as a justice of the United States Supreme Court.
This, of course, is in addition to tremendous event spaces. Downtown’s Duke Energy Convention Center boasts more than 750,000 sq. ft. of space, 3,500 adjacent hotel rooms and easy access to 100 downtown restaurants in the easily walkable city center. Sharonville Convention Center, about 16 miles from downtown, offers more than 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space in a sleek setting that’s improving with more high-tech services. Options abound beyond the convention centers, including the baseball and football stadiums. Outdoor areas such as Smale Riverfront Park—which was completed just in time for the All-Star Game—also lend to the scenic beauty of the city for offsite adventures.
One of the local sayings is that if you haven’t seen Cincinnati in the past year, you haven’t seen the new Cincinnati, and with phase three of the overwhelming revitalization still underway, the same will likely be true for years to come.