Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy will take part in the pre-gameday excitement by greeting fans and participating in a Q-and-A session with Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers. Packers alumni Donny Anderson and Greg Koch will also be at the rally to socialize with fans, sign autographs and discuss their thoughts on the next day’s game against the Cowboys. A round-table discussion with Packers.com writers Vic Ketchman, Mike Spofford and the audience will conclude the event.
A year-round destination venue to be enjoyed by Packers fans in a variety of ways on an everyday basis, it underwent a dramatic facelift that added a host of new amenities and attractions. The conclusion of the redevelopment project was marked by a rededication game, Sept. 7, 2003, against longtime divisional rival Minnesota.
Featuring the only true “retro” look in the entire league, the glorious tradition and history of the Packers is carried forward in the “like-new” Lambeau Field with its heart – the original seating bowl – saved. The same hallowed ground where many of the NFL’s greatest moments have transpired continues to exist, a canvas where current players can paint their own memories in future years.
At the same time, the structure has been transformed from a football stadium that fans could use only 10 days during the season to a Packers cultural center that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Within the five-story Lambeau Field Atrium, located on the stadium’s east side, is the 25,000-square-foot Packers Hall of Fame, corporate meeting and event facilities for 25 to 1,200 people, five different eating options highlighted by a one-of-a-kind brew pub (Curly’s Pub) with interactive areas, and a larger Packers Pro Shop (see page 601-603 for a full listing of the Atrium dining, entertainment and retail options).
Just outside the Atrium in the Robert E. Harlan Plaza, named in honor of the former team CEO (1989-2007), are bronze statues of team founder Curly Lambeau and legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Sculpted by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany (Lombardi) and Omri Amrany (Lambeau) of Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highland Park, Ill., at a cost of more than $400,000, each statue is 14 feet tall, atop three feet of steps and a four-foot base. Nearby the statues are several park benches — making the plaza area a great place to sit and soak up the majesty of Lambeau Field.
On gamedays, fans benefit from many of the same 21st-century amenities typically found in the shiny but sterile, newer facilities that have sprouted up across the country in recent years – everything from wider concourses (including a new, upper concourse) to enhanced concession areas to modernized and increased restroom facilities (particularly for female fans), to a club level for suite and club seat patrons.
The 32-month, $295 million redevelopment of Lambeau was completed on time – and on budget – with the Packers remaining in Green Bay to play all of their games throughout the process. Put into motion by a county-wide referendum that approved a half-cent sales tax increase on Sept. 12, 2000, the project was financed jointly by the city of Green Bay, county taxpayers, the Packers and the NFL.
The Packers’ football facilities – a vital element in attracting players in today’s ultra-competitive NFL – also were enhanced greatly by the stadium’s redevelopment, debuting in time for the 2002 season. The centerpiece of these quarters is a breathtaking, 64-by-120-foot, football-shaped locker room with 64 stately wooden lockers. Another 25 lockers can be found in an adjoining, auxiliary locker room, to be utilized during training camp.
The new football facilities also feature a much larger training room with all of the latest therapy pools as well as a permanent X-ray machine, a new weight room, individual position meeting rooms with theatre-style seating, a 150-plus-seat team auditorium, a basketball court with a parquet wood floor, a racquetball court, a team dining room and a players’ lounge.
Not forgetting the Packers’ rich tradition and history at Lambeau Field, then-GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman requested three slabs of concrete that were located in the team’s former field tunnel at the north end – which were walked over by many of the greatest players in club history – to be moved to the new tunnel in the southeast corner; the players began using it during the 2002 season. A nearby plaque recognizes the presence of the concrete from the old tunnel.
In July 2002, all of the team’s administrative and football-operations offices also relocated to within the Lambeau Field Atrium on the stadium’s east side.
Other benefits realized through the redevelopment project include a modern system of field lights that is more than eight times brighter than the previous stadium lights, and a new visiting-team locker room. Also, a larger, more comfortable and modern press box that can seat in excess of 250 media members for a playoff game – and positioned along the sidelines – debuted in 2002. In 2003, the press box was renamed “The Lee Remmel Press Box” in honor of the former newspaper sportswriter, Packers public relations director and team historian. Remmel retired in 2007 after more than 60 years of close association with the organization.
The Packers continue to upgrade the stadium as well. This season, a distributed audio system that is designed to deliver sound more consistently and evenly throughout the stadium bowl will benefit fans. In 2012, new video boards in the end zones will feature state-of-the-art LED technology and higher-resolution displays, and will be four times their current size.
Opened in 1957, Lambeau Field had seen numerous smaller-scale changes through the years, including seven prior seating expansions and the addition of suites. But, as new stadiums rose throughout the NFL in the 1990s, Lambeau Field became outdated. As a publicly owned team, the Packers must generate a significant amount of income from their home to remain competitive. Challenges with capacity, as well as the need for updated suites plus more club seats, restrooms and concessions, made redevelopment a necessity.
Faced with these challenges, the organization went to work in October 1999, assembling a plan to protect 80 years of Packers history and ensure the club’s continued viability. After several feasibility studies and overwhelming support for renovation, as opposed to building a new stadium, the redevelopment plan was dubbed the proper course of action. Unveiled in January 2000, the plan ultimately won voter approval that September with the hard work of people committed to preserving Green Bay’s unique franchise.
“Our fans overwhelmingly asked us to save Lambeau Field,” then-President and CEO Bob Harlan said. “This plan accomplishes that while giving the Packers an economic base to build for the future in Green Bay. We want this to be the No. 1 destination in Wisconsin. We’re going to build a stadium that the rest of the National Football League wished it had.”
Included in the redeveloped stadium are more than 11,600 additional seats, including roughly 6,000 more bowl seats, to increase Lambeau’s capacity to 73,142. Over 4,000 of the new seats were available for use during the 2002 season with construction ongoing.
The block of new seats helped the Packers to remove almost 1,500 names from their season-ticket waiting list – which has more than 88,000 names on it – between both ticket packages. Additionally, Brown County residents without season tickets have a chance to purchase the remaining 4,000 new bowl tickets on a game-by-game basis; in 2010, 10,000 residents were randomly selected from a list and were able to purchase four tickets. Disabled-accessible seats also increased dramatically through the development project, rising from 56 to 733.
The main concourse – previously so narrow in some places that it had become a safety problem – also was expanded significantly. And, a new, upper concourse – complete with concession stands and restrooms – which increases the ease with which fans can move through the facility, fully debuted in 2003 with the project’s completion after partial use in 2002.
Concession stands and restrooms have been greatly expanded as well, lessening the time fans are out of their seats. Concession points of sale increased to 281 on the main and upper concourses alone, up from 186. Availability of women’s restrooms, far below meeting the needs of female fans in the old stadium, increased from 180 to 556. Men’s restrooms now are at 708, up from 436.
The centerpiece of the redeveloped stadium is the Lambeau Field Atrium, a 366,000-square-foot, five-plus-story structure on the east side. MillerCoors, through a sponsorship deal announced in July 2002 that extends through the 2012 NFL season, is a partner with the Packers in the Atrium and is the sponsor of the area’s main entrance gate. Welcoming fans is a glass wall, facing Lombardi Avenue, measuring over 180 feet long and 80 feet high.
The Lambeau Field Atrium with its many attractions creates an “entertainment district” at the legendary stadium, a concept pioneered at venues like Camden Yards in Baltimore and Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Revenue generated from the Packers Pro Shop, Packers Hall of Fame, Curly’s Pub, the Atrium eateries, the Legends Club and special events, as well as other Atrium businesses, is essential to the Packers’ long-term survival. In just the first year, with only the new Pro Shop open and several gate sponsorships sold, the Packers’ NFL revenue ranking for the fiscal year 2002-03 jumped to 10th, up from 20th the prior year. The strong financial performance continued during the ensuing fiscal years as all elements of the redeveloped stadium are now online; the club’s NFL revenue ranking has continued to be in the second quartile, allowing the team to continue delivering on its promise to the community and its fans – turning profitability into the preservation of the franchise and the stadium. The redevelopment’s economic impact on the area has been positive as well; roughly 60 percent of the Packers’ special events department’s bookings come from outside Brown County, bringing in additional business to the Green Bay area. The Atrium already has events booked out to 2017.
Two offseason football-related events are popular attractions: Packers Draft Party and Packers Fan Fest. The former saw nearly 2,000 fans take to the Atrium for a gathering on the NFL Draft’s first day of action from 2004-09, hearing from Packers front-office members and current players and watching the selection process unfold with fellow Green and Gold fans; recent versions were held in Curly’s Pub, in conjunction with the Draft’s new prime-time format.
The latter witnesses 3,000 enthusiastic fans descend upon the Atrium in March for two days of meeting coaches and players, autograph sessions and even a tour of the locker room. After a hiatus in 2011, it is expected to return in 2012.
Large-scale stadium events have included the ‘Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic’ in February 2006, a Wisconsin Badgers-Ohio State Buckeyes matchup that drew 40,890 fans, the fifth-largest hockey crowd of all time. In June 2011, a Kenny Chesney concert attracted more than 45,000 music lovers to the stadium. The two events brought in $3 million and $5 million, respectively, to the local economy.
On the community front, the Atrium has hosted regular events. ‘Spooktacular Fun,’ a Halloween event that features interactive and entertaining activities including the ‘Haunted Concourse,’ music, magic, miming, clowns and jugglers, takes place in October. In November, the Packers serve a Thanksgiving meal to more than 800 people. March sees the Atrium welcome ‘Project LEAP!’ (Lambeau’s Exercise and Activity Playground) – a day focused on getting kids out of the house to enjoy non-strenuous physical activity. More than 15,000 residents enjoy the Atrium during these days.
The project’s voter-approved financing came in the form of a half-cent sales tax in Brown County – where the Packers make their estimated $144 million annual economic impact – that supports over $160 million in bonding. The state of Wisconsin approved funding of an additional $9.1 million for stadium infrastructure improvements. The Packers, the city and the NFL contributed $125.9 million from a one-time seat user fee ($1,400 for seven-game “Green Package” ticket holders, $600 for three-game “Gold Package” ticket holders, in 2001), proceeds from the 1997-98 stock sale and an NFL loan. And, the club pledged to cover any project cost overruns in consideration of its authority to direct the design of the building and stadium construction.
The Packers’ contribution to the project ranked as the fifth highest in NFL history. Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin governor at the time, signed into law enabling legislation May 13, 2000, in a ceremony held on the playing field. Later, on Jan. 3, 2001, the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Stadium District Board approved a new Lambeau Field lease agreement between the district, the Packers and the city of Green Bay; the lease’s primary term runs for 30 years after the opening of the redeveloped stadium in 2003. A groundbreaking ceremony, involving then-Governor Scott McCallum, area dignitaries and Packers officials and players, subsequently was held on May 19, 2001.
The NFL’s longest-tenured venue, Lambeau easily ranks as one of the most recognized and envied locales in all of sports, a fact recognized in 1999 when Sports Illustrated named it the eighth-best facility in the world to watch sports — and the lone NFL stadium to make the magazine’s “Top 20” list. Additionally, SI.com in 2007 and 2008 rated Lambeau Field as the No. 1 stadium experience in the NFL, as did ESPN The Magazine in 2009 and 2011.
Even after the recent changes, Lambeau maintains its nostalgic and intimate feel with totally unobstructed sightlines. Permeated by history, tradition and mystique, the view from inside can be awe-inspiring.
Dedicated as City Stadium Sept. 29, 1957 – a day that saw Green Bay topple the hated Chicago Bears, 21-17 – ceremonies included Vice President Richard Nixon and NFL Commissioner Bert Bell. In 1965, the facility was renamed Lambeau Field following the death of E.L. “Curly” Lambeau, the Packers’ founder and first coach.
Originally built at a cost of $960,000, an amount shared equally by the Packers Corporation and the city of Green Bay, the facility was financed by way of a bond issue that received 2-to-1 voter approval in a municipal referendum conducted April 3, 1956.
Located in southwest Green Bay, surrounded on three sides by the village of Ashwaubenon, Lambeau Field originally was built on farmland, purchased for $73,305. The stadium’s original architect, Somerville Inc., favored the current site because it was sloped, making it perfect to build a bowl.
Lambeau Field, now in its 55th NFL season, is the longest continuously occupied stadium in the league – 10 years more than the next-closest venue, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego at 45 years. In pro sports as a whole, only the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park (100 seasons) and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field (98 seasons) have longer active homefield tenures.
Including the redevelopment, eight seating additions – all paid for by the Green Bay Packers, Inc. – have increased Lambeau’s capacity from its original 32,150 to 38,669 in 1961, to 42,327 in 1963, to 50,852 in 1965 and to 56,263 in 1970. Construction of 72 initial suites in 1985 moved capacity to 56,926, and a 1990 addition of 36 boxes and 1,920 theatre-style club seats changed the number to 59,543. The seventh seating addition, a $4.7 million project in 1995, put 90 more suites in the previously open north end zone, for the first time giving the stadium the feel of a complete bowl and upping capacity to 60,890.
Ultimately, the eighth addition bumped stadium seating capacity to 73,142. During the 2002 campaign, with work ongoing, capacity fluctuated between 65,290 and 66,110 as the season progressed.
In 2007, the Packers installed an entirely new playing surface, including a completely new drainage and heating system, bringing the latest technology in field management to the famous stadium. Chief to the new system is DD GrassMaster, a natural-grass surface reinforced with man-made fibers. All existing levels of the field were removed and the new system began with a clay sub-grade level, compacted and graded (with a .6 percent slope), including drain tile, irrigation pipe and thermostat wiring for the heating system. The second level consists of 5½ inches of pea gravel. On top of the gravel layer is 30-plus miles of ¾-inch tubing for the heating system which can maintain a root-zone temperature of 55-plus degrees to keep the ground from freezing during the season’s latter months. Level three consists of 12 inches of root-zone sand and Kentucky bluegrass turf. DD GrassMaster’s synthetic fibers are stitched into the surface, providing strength and stability to the field. Fibers extend approximately seven inches below the surface, are exposed approximately one inch above the surface, and are spaced every three-quarters of an inch. Approximately 20 million individual stitches make up the process. The slope equates to a crown of about 5½ inches on the new surface.
Also prominent within the stadium are the names of the 21 Packers players and coaches elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Packers’ 13 NFL Championship seasons (southeast corner) and five retired jersey numbers (north end zone) are on the facade as well. In December 2006, the facade’s northeast corner became home to the name of Ron Wolf, the former Packers general manager (1991-2001). Bob Harlan, then CEO, had the name installed, in a new tradition, separate from the Pro Football Hall of Famers, so that Wolf could be recognized in a way that is befitting of his enormous legacy with the organization.
Lambeau Field is among the NFL’s toughest places to play. Green Bay holds a 114-38 (.750) regular-season record at Lambeau since 1992, plus an 8-3 mark in the playoffs, for an overall record of 122-41 (.748). Even more imposing, the Packers have won 114 of their last 151 games in Green Bay (including the eight postseason victories), since Oct. 10, 1993.
In the midst of nearly four full seasons at home without a defeat – prior to a 1998 Monday night loss to Minnesota, their last setback at Lambeau had come in the 1995 season opener – the Packers established the NFL’s second-longest home winning streak (25). Only the Miami Dolphins (1971-74) have won more consecutive regular-season home games (27).
Over the past two decades, prior to the start of the redevelopment project, the Packers organization itself had spent more than $50 million on improvements to the stadium, the previous club administration building and training facilities, including construction of the original indoor practice structure in 1982 and its replacement, the Don Hutson Center, in 1994 at a cost of nearly $4.7 million. Recent improvements include DD GrassMaster surfaces on practice fields, Clarke Hinkle Field (2006) and Ray Nitschke Field (2009). Nitschke Field also has a new seating facility for fans attending training-camp practices.
Lambeau Field now is owned by the city of Green Bay and the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District; retirement of the city’s original $960,000 debt was celebrated at a mortgage-burning ceremony in May of 1978.
Sold out on a season-ticket basis since 1960 (293 consecutive games at the start of 2011, including playoffs) Lambeau was not the Packers’ only regular-season home until 1995. The team maintained two separate ticket packages after moving all games to Green Bay, eliminating four annual dates at Milwaukee County Stadium.
“Gold” ticket holders (made up primarily of former Milwaukee season patrons) have a three-game package consisting of the annual Midwest Shrine preseason contest plus the second and fifth regular-season home games each year.
“Green” season customers (made up of original Green Bay ticket holders) have a seven-game package consisting of the annual Bishop’s Charities preseason game and the remaining six regular-season contests.