One of the most revered stadiums in the country, Lambeau Field this year is hosting its 59th season of football.
A year-round destination venue enjoyed by Packers fans in a variety of ways on a daily basis, it underwent a dramatic facelift from 2000-03 that added a host of new amenities and attractions, carrying the glorious tradition and history of the Packers forward in the “like-new” Lambeau Field. Building upon that success, the venerable stadium recently completed a five-year expansion and renovation (2011-2015) that saw the debut of the South End in 2013, a new section which closed the south end-zone structure and features approximately 7,000 new seats, including premium seating as well as sponsor and partner areas.
Featuring the only true “retro” look in the entire league, Lambeau Field through the redevelopment and recent expansion has maintained its heart – the original seating bowl. The same hallowed ground where many of the NFL’s greatest moments have transpired continues to exist, a setting in which current players will create incredible memories in future years. Even with the changes over the past decade, 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.
What was once just a football stadium that fans could use only 10 days during the season is today 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 Packers Pro Shop; corporate meeting and event facilities for up to 25 to 1,200 people; and open in 2015, a brand-new Packers Hall of Fame in a new location, and a new restaurant, 1919 Kitchen & Tap, that replaces Curly’s Pub (see pages 601-604 for a full listing of the Atrium dining, entertainment and retail options).
Historic Lambeau Field is the longest continuously occupied stadium in the league – 10 years more than the next-closest venue, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego at 49 years. In pro sports as a whole, only the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park (104 seasons) and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field (102 seasons) have longer active home-field tenures.
The stadium that enjoys iconic status today had very humble beginnings.
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.
Dedicated as City Stadium Sept. 29, 1957 – a day that 32,132 fans saw Green Bay topple the hated Chicago Bears, 21-17 – attendees 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.
Seating expansions: 1961-1995
Prior to the 2003 redevelopment, seven seating additions – all paid for by the Green Bay Packers Inc. – increased Lambeau’s capacity from its original 32,154 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.
major upgrades needed
Even with Lambeau Field’s numerous smaller-scale changes and improvements through the years, the stadium was becoming outdated in the 1990s with other new NFL stadiums coming online.
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 with overwhelming support for renovation, as opposed to building a new stadium, the redevelopment plan was determined as 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/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 redevelopment were more than 11,600 additional seats (the stadium’s eighth addition), including roughly 6,600 more bowl seats, which increased Lambeau’s capacity to 73,094 at the time. More than 4,000 of the seats were available for use during the 2002 season with construction ongoing, and capacity fluctuated between 65,290 and 66,110 as the season progressed.
The main concourse – previously so narrow in some places that it had become a safety problem – also was expanded significantly in 2002. 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 were greatly expanded as well. Concession points of sale increased to 281 on the main and upper concourses alone, up from 186. The 2003 project increased the availability of women’s restrooms from 180 to 556, and men’s from 436 to 708.
The centerpiece of the redeveloped stadium is the Lambeau Field Atrium, a 376,000-square-foot, five-plus-story structure on the east side. MillerCoors, through a sponsorship that extends through the 2022 NFL season, is a partner with the Packers in the Atrium and is the sponsor of the area’s main entrance gate, the Miller Lite Gate. Welcoming fans is a glass wall, facing Lombardi Avenue, measuring more than 180 feet long and 80 feet high. Additionally, in July 2002, all of the team’s administrative and football-operations offices also relocated to within the Atrium.
Just outside the Atrium is the Robert E. Harlan Plaza, named in honor of the former team CEO (1989-2008). In the space are bronze statues of team founder Curly Lambeau and legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Sculpted by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany (Lombardi) and Omri Amrany (Lambeau) of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highland Park, Ill., each statue is 14 feet tall and sits atop three feet of steps and a four-foot base. Benches throughout the area make the plaza area a great place to sit and soak up the majesty of Lambeau Field.
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 38 lockers can be found in an adjoining, auxiliary locker room.
The football facilities also feature a much larger athletic training room with all of the latest therapy pools, as well as a permanent X-ray machine, individual position meeting rooms with theatre-style seating, a 150-plus-seat team auditorium, a basketball court with a parquet wood floor, and a racquetball court.
Other benefits realized through the redevelopment project included 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 – positioned along the sidelines – debuted in 2002. In 2003, the press box was renamed “The Lee Remmel Press Box” in honor of the late former newspaper sportswriter, Packers public relations director and team historian who had more than 60 years of close association with the organization.
Overall, the project took 32 months to complete and was completed on time – and on budget – with the Packers remaining in Green Bay to play all of their games.
financing the 2000-03 redevelopment
A portion of the 2003 project’s $295-million financing came in the form of a half-cent sales tax in Brown County – where the Packers make their estimated nearly $300 million annual economic impact – that supported more than $160 million in bonding. Voters approved the support by county-wide referendum on Sept. 12, 2000. 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 at that point. 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 30-year lease agreement between the district, the Packers and the city of Green Bay. A groundbreaking ceremony, involving then-Governor Scott McCallum, area dignitaries and Packers officials and players, subsequently was held May 19, 2001.
team benefits from new revenue streams
The Lambeau Field Atrium, with its many attractions, created 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, 1919 Kitchen & Tap, the Atrium eateries, the Legends Club and Lambeau Field events 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 (Oneida Nation, Verizon Wireless, Mills Fleet Farm and Associated Bank), 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 came 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 Lambeau Field 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 2020.
the playing surface
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 43 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. To further enhance the surface, a system of grow lights is used in the fall to extend the growing season.
2011-15 expansion and renovation
The current expansion and renovation of Lambeau Field and the Atrium, a $312 million project, began in 2011 with the installation of a distributed-audio system that delivers sound more consistently and evenly throughout the stadium bowl. The 2012 season featured new high-definition video boards in the end zones with displays four times larger than the old versions, as well as a new Bellin Health Gate on the north end of the stadium with an accompanying North Loft, a popular rooftop viewing platform located just beneath the scoreboard. The South End (opened in 2013), is served by the Shopko Gate with escalators and elevators to service the five levels of seating. The multiple sections feature amenities not previously available in Lambeau Field, from viewing platforms in the general seating areas for watching the action on the field, to indoor-outdoor suite configurations and inclusive meal arrangements in the premium and partner areas. Atrium renovation work included a larger Oneida Nation Gate with plaza (2013), a new east gate – the American Family Insurance Gate – with a 50-foot Lombardi Trophy replica, a new Packers Pro Shop and a redone Harlan Plaza with a new statue – the Lambeau Leap – that allows visitors to replicate the fan-favorite touchdown celebration (2014). The final Atrium components, completed in 2015, are a new Packers Hall of Fame, and a new restaurant, 1919 Kitchen & Tap.
Other fan-experience enhancements included a new concession-sales system (2012), further reducing the time fans are out of their seats, and another 30 points of sale (2013). The recent expansion also increased the number to men’s and women’s restrooms to 646 and 798, respectively.
In terms of seating capacity, the ninth addition brought approximately 7,600 new seats online for the 2013 season, putting capacity at 80,735. With the debut of standing-room-only areas in 2014, capacity of Lambeau Field now stands at 81,435, second only to New York’s MetLife Stadium (82,500).
The football facilities also received an upgrade during the current renovations. The main component is the Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Instructional Center (CRIC), which includes an indoor, 35-yard field that can be used for a variety of activities, including team walk-throughs, strength and conditioning work, and rehabilitation exercises for injured players. The new football facilities, located underneath and adjacent to the Oneida Nation Gate, also include a weight room, team dining area, player resource and development area, and player lounge. The athletic training facilities also were enhanced with expanded treatment space and additional hydrotherapy pools.
The most recent project has a total cost of $312 million, with no funding coming from public tax money. The first phase, including the South End expansion, sound and video upgrades, totaled $146 million and was funded by the Packers ($64 million from the organization’s fifth stock sale), an NFL loan ($61 million) and a contribution from the stadium district ($21 million). The stadium district’s user fee was updated in 2013 and set at $2,100 for the “Green Package,” and $900 for the “Gold Package.” The second phase, including the Atrium renovations, totaled $166 million and was funded by the Packers ($111 million through traditional financing) and an NFL loan ($55 million).
legends adorn the façade
Also prominent within the stadium are the names of the 22 Packers players, coaches and contributors elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Ron Wolf, the team’s general manager from 1992-2001, will become the 23rd on Nov. 15, 2015, in honor of his enshrinement Aug. 8, 2015. The Packers’ 13 NFL Championship seasons (south scoreboard) and five retired jersey numbers (north end zone) are displayed in the stadium as well. Additionally, Brett Favre’s No. 4, which will be retired July 18, 2015, during the Packers Hall of Fame induction banquet, will be formally unveiled in the stadium during a halftime ceremony on Nov. 26, 2015.
Lambeau Field is among the NFL’s toughest places to play. Green Bay holds a 141-42-1 (.769) regular-season record at Lambeau since 1992, plus a 10-5 mark in the playoffs, for an overall record of 151-47-1 (.761). Even more imposing, the Packers under Head Coach Mike McCarthy have gone 53-12-1 (.810) in their past 58 regular-season games at Lambeau.
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).
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 2011-14.
lambeau hosts hockey, concerts, community events
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 fourth-largest hockey crowd at the time. Two Kenny Chesney concerts (2011, and 2015 with Jason Aldean) attracted more than 45,000 and 50,000 music lovers, respectively, to the stadium. The events were a financial boon to the local economy, with $3 million (hockey) and $5 million (each concert) impacts, respectively. A Wisconsin-LSU football game is scheduled for September 2016, as well.
On the community front, the Atrium has regularly hosted free events. “Spooktacular Fun,” a Halloween event that features interactive and entertaining activities including music, magic, miming, clowns and jugglers, takes place in October. Festival of Lights, a holiday-themed event in December, features a visit from Santa Claus, cookie decorating, choirs and a 40-foot tree with 10,000 lights. March sees the Atrium welcome “Project Play 60” – a day focused on getting kids out of the house to enjoy non-strenuous physical activity. More than 20,000 residents enjoy the Atrium during these days.
improvements to other facilities
In the two decades prior to the start of the 2003 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. In addition to Lambeau Field, DD GrassMaster surfaces were installed on practice fields – Clarke Hinkle Field in 2006 and Ray Nitschke Field in 2009 – with the latter surface including a heated portion that keeps the ground from freezing late in the season and affords the team the opportunity to practice outside. Nitschke Field also has a seating facility, erected in 2009, for fans attending training-camp practices.
Lambeau Field today is owned by the city of Green Bay, the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District and the Green Bay Packers. The stadium is operated by the Packers under a three-party lease with a primary term that runs through 2031. Retirement of the city’s original $960,000 debt from the stadium’s initial construction in 1957 was celebrated at a mortgage-burning ceremony in May 1978. The current, county-wide half-cent sales tax that supported the 2000-03 redevelopment is scheduled to sunset Sept. 30, 2015.
tickets and waiting list
Sold out since 1960 and on a season-ticket basis since 1961 (310 consecutive regular-season games, not including replacement games, at the start of the 2015 season), 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.
The block of additional seats in 2003 helped the Packers remove roughly 3,600 names from their season-ticket waiting list – which at the start of the 2015 season had more than 117,000 names on it – between both ticket packages. The 7,000-plus new seats in 2013 helped the Packers remove another 5,000 names from the list. Additionally, Brown County residents without season tickets have a chance to purchase 4,000 new bowl tickets on a game-by-game basis; in 2015, 10,000 residents were randomly selected from a list and were able to purchase four tickets. Disabled-accessible seats also increased dramatically through both projects, rising from 56 to 756 in 2003, and to 876 currently.
The Packers maybe gained more cachet than one might expect of a first-year semipro football team in 1919, but the setting for their home games had a purely sandlot, pickup-game flavor.
There was no fence, no bleachers, no frills.
They simply played on an open field in Hagemeister Park, a large public park located where Green Bay East High School and old City Stadium stand today and connected to Joannes Park.
There had been a ballpark in Hagemeister when Green Bay fielded a minor league baseball team from 1905-14, but it was torn down in the spring of 1918. That version was referred to as the League Ballgrounds or the W-I Ballpark. The latter was a derivative of the name of the minor league – Wisconsin-Illinois – that Green Bay was a part of from 1908-14.
Throughout the summer of 1919, local sports advocates bemoaned the absence of a ballpark in a city the size of Green Bay and worried that it might prevent East and West high schools from playing home games or, worse yet, fielding teams.
It was under that cloud that the Packers were formed. Yet they somehow managed to survive.
Their only way of making money was for co-founder and manager George Whitney Calhoun, with the help of others, to pass a hat during games. Fans walked the sidelines following the ball, even edging onto the field at times, and those who didn’t would pull their Model-Ts up close to the action and watch from their front seat.
The next year, local typewriter salesman C.M. “Neil” Murphy took over as business manager of the Packers and led the effort to build a fence around the field. After getting approval and support from the property owners and others, Murphy invited fans to show up on a Saturday morning with hammers in hand and help build it.
But once the season ended, the contract called for the fence and bleachers to be torn down and the lumber to be returned to the Indian Packing Co. In the spring of 1921, the ballpark was rebuilt on the same spot with the same lumber and the same design.
When the Packers were admitted to the American Professional Football Association in August of that year, seating was expanded to about 3,500. The Packers played their games there that season and again in 1922.
When the Hagemeister ballpark was torn down in the spring of 1923 to make way for a new East High School, Bellevue Park was built across the East River on property owned by Hagemeister Products Co. (formerly Hagemeister Brewery). The ballpark was rushed to completion for the city’s amateur baseball team and used by the Packers in 1923-24.
It’s best remembered as the site of the first Packers-Bears game played in Green Bay on Oct. 14, 1923. The Packers also were tough to beat at Bellevue, compiling a 9-2-1 record.
But the seating capacity was no more than about 3,300, parking was inadequate and fans grumbled that it was located too far from downtown.
One of the reasons Hagemeister Park was chosen as the site for East High was because of the space available for athletic fields. The school opened in 1924, and City Stadium was finished the following year.
The Packers played there for 32 seasons and won six of their 13 NFL championships during that period, but never played a postseason game there.
The first game was an exhibition against the Iron Mountain All-Stars played Sept. 13, 1925, and Curly Lambeau was the star. The first NFL game was played a week later against the Hammond Pros.
The Packers played their last game there Nov. 18, 1956, and rookie quarterback Bart Starr made his first pro start. The game featured nine future Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Starr and fellow rookie Forrest Gregg.
In all, 87 players in the Hall of Fame, including 11 Packers, played in either a regular-season or preseason game there.
When City Stadium opened, it had seating for roughly 5,700. Its peak capacity was nearly 25,000.
Its most distinctive feature might have been a 400-foot long, 12-foot high and 17-inch thick sandstone entranceway built in 1940 along the west end facing Baird Street. But other than the wall, City Stadium was made of wood and had become outdated well before the Packers abandoned it for new City Stadium, or what is now Lambeau Field, in 1957.
State Fair Park, for 18 seasons, and County Stadium, for 42 seasons, were the Packers’ primary homes in Milwaukee over the 62 straight years (1933-94) that they played there.
Even though the Packers weren’t based in Milwaukee, fans there embraced them as their own. As a result, when the Packers stopped playing at an aging County Stadium following the 1994 season, they determined that Milwaukee ticketholders should be offered their same allotment each year for two designated regular-season games played at Lambeau Field.
Related Lambeau Field History Information