Bengals plan indoor practice facility for 2022 season

Cincinnati Bengals players stretch prior to the start of a practice in 2017 at the University of Cincinnati indoor facility. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE

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Cincinnati Bengals players stretch prior to the start of a practice in 2017 at the University of Cincinnati indoor facility. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE

Cincinnati Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn told reporters at the annual NFL owners meetings last week the team was looking at options for an indoor facility. Now it appears that plan is in place.

According to news partner WCPO.com, the Bengals want to put a temporary indoor practice facility on seven acres of land on Mehring Way, which the Hamilton County Commissioners bought from Hilltop Basic Resources in October 2019. The team submitted an application to the Cincinnati Planning Commission on April 4, and the item is on the commission’s agenda for the April 15 meeting.

“These temporary practice facilities … are a standard practice among teams in the National Football League as they allow appropriate practice spaces for players when inclement weather occurs and will serve as a much-needed practice space due to an increase in wintertime games.”

The Bengals are the northernmost team in the league without an indoor practice facility, and when bad weather hits, they have either moved practices into Paul Brown Stadium or utilized the University of Cincinnati’s indoor practice bubble.

It appears the Bengals are looking at a similar setup for its own “bubble.”

The proposal submitted to the Planning Commission calls for “a removable and inflatable, 75-foot high, synthetic air dome that attaches to a concrete footer which will house a regulation-size interior turf practice field for Bengals players and staff.” . The exterior will be paved and include an 8-foot high security fence and 187 parking spaces.

The Bengals would be looking to build the facility at the team’s expense for use in the 2022 NFL season, though the application does not list a dollar amount for the project.

The property at 612 Mehring Way was once home to Hilltop Basic Resources, which consolidated its operations onto the remaining 10 acres while the gravel and concrete company has been looking for a new relocation site for three years.

Hamilton County bought Hilltop’s riverfront property 17 acres west of Paul Brown Stadium in October 2019 for $29.75 million, and the Bengals gave up $30 million owed in game-day payments to allow the county to buy the property for a land swap.

The team gave up parking areas east of the stadium (Lot 27) for the construction of an indoor-outdoor concert venue, the Andrew J. Brady Music Center near Smale Riverfront Park, In exchange for the county allowing the Bengals to use the Hilltop property for parking, tailgating and a practice facility.

The county and Bengals deal allows for the construction and usage of an indoor practice facility on the Hilltop site.

The Bengals’ Super Bowl run last season highlighted the need for an indoor facility. Super Bowl LVI was the latest one ever played, on Feb. 13, because the regular season expanded from 16 to 17 games in 2021. The plan is for the game to remain on the second Sunday in February until the league expands the regular season again, eventually stretching it from 17 to 18 games.

The average daily temperature in Cincinnati was 28.9 degrees in January, and there was measurable precipitation on 12 of the 31 days. The Bengals took buses during an ice storm at least one of the three days they went to UC to practice in preparation for the Super Bowl.

“We plan on needing (an indoor facility) all the way to February,” Blackburn said in her interview with local media at the NFL owners meetings.

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