Bengals announce full capacity at Paul Brown Stadium for 2021 season

Fans cheer on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Fans cheer on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Cincinnati Bengals announced Monday that Paul Brown Stadium will return to full capacity for the 2021 season.

The Bengals began last season playing games in an empty stadium because of COVID-19 restrictions, but state allowances changed midway through to permit limited crowds, and the team closed the 2020 campaign with 10,499 fans in attendance for the finale.

Great American Ballpark has been at full capacity allowance for Reds’ games since June 2, and FC Cincinnati moved to a full capacity crowd June 19.

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Now, things at Paul Brown Stadium can go back to normal, and the Bengals want to take advantage and “Rule the Jungle” – as a new campaign launches to rev up the atmosphere on gameday. Full capacity is around 65,000 fans.

“We are building something meaningful here in Cincinnati,” Bengals director of strategy and engagement Elizabeth Blackburn said in an open letter to fans on the team website. “Beyond trying to build a championship team, we want to build an empire of Bengals fans that make the gameday atmosphere at Paul Brown Stadium a renowned destination that the national media and critics will need to respect.”

That last comment seems to take aim in response to Ben Volin’s article in the Boston Globe last week ranking Cincinnati as the worst travel destination in the NFL.

Blackburn said the organization is “making noticeable changes on gameday,” adding to the traditions of the “Welcome To The Jungle” song before kickoff and the “Bengal Growl” song after touchdowns, to “create a more energetic environment from the moment gates open until the final play.”

“I want ‘The Jungle’ experience at Paul Brown Stadium to be even more legendary – truly the best live experience event,” Blackburn said.

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The Bengals will be adding a new pregame tradition called “Ruler of The Jungle,” where a prominent Bengals personality or fan will lead the crowd in the Who Dey chant. Other gameday upgrades, as Blackburn elaborated during an “Ask Me Anything” takeover on Bengals’ Reddit, include new LED lights, new runout decorations for player introductions and enhanced fireworks.

“All of this light and sound will add energy to make gameday more engaging,” Blackburn said on Reddit.

Halftime entertainment will still be limited because of COVID restrictions, Blackburn said, but one prominent presentation will be the Sept. 30 game against Jacksonville when the Bengals will hold their Ring of Honor induction ceremony.

Blackburn also addressed other related topics on Reddit, including answering one question about whether the team plans to hire former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson to help spread more hype. He was part of the team’s “New Stripes” campaign launched with the new uniform release earlier this summer and has remained involved with the team on other special promotions and events in the past.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 01: Cincinnati Bengals fans celebrate following the first win of the season against the New York Jets at Paul Brown Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 01: Cincinnati Bengals fans celebrate following the first win of the season against the New York Jets at Paul Brown Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Credit: Michael Hickey

Credit: Michael Hickey

“Working with Chad on the uniform launch was so fun,” Blackburn said. “He has been a great ambassador for the team. Beyond his appearance in New Stripes we have more content for gameday that we produced while he was in town. We’ll continue to work with Chad in the future – just not as our team nutritionist -- too many Big Macs.”

Blackburn said she regularly looks at ticket sales and attendance figures to see how the organization is doing relative to creating the homefield advantage to help the team, and she also checks social media metrics like follower growth, engagement and impressions across all channels, as well as metrics for the team website (traffic and dwell time), App (number of accounts) and emails (such as the open rate).

Asked what motivated her to take on her role of transforming the fan experience and increasing engagement, aside from being part of the family business, Blackburn said she is “highly motivated to put Cincinnati on the map.”

“We live in a great city with amazing people and extremely passionate fans,” she said. “I want our team to be one more thing that elevates the Midwest to a place people respect. Also, I grew up a fan and I want to add energy to the gameday experience that gives us a louder, bigger homefield advantage.”