For years fans called the Green Bay Packers asking if it might be possible to hold an event near and dear to their hearts at a place near and dear to their hearts: Lambeau Field. And for years, the Packers had to say no.
Thursday that all changed when the Packers organization announced that it would begin officially accepting special events bookings for the Lambeau Field Atrium, a 365,000-square-foot, five-story structure at the northeast corner of Lambeau Field.
A jewel of the $295 million redevelopment project, when the Atrium becomes fully operational in September it will include meeting and banquet facilities, a brewpub, an interactive fan zone, the Packers Hall of Fame, the Packers Pro Shop (already operational) and other elements.
"It's going to be an incredible hub of activity," said Dee Geurts-Bengtson, the Packers' executive of special events.
If the football team is the first part of attracting visitors to Lambeau Field, opening the Atrium's doors to special events is the second.
The Atrium is designed to give Packers fans a one-of-a-kind sports experience, but it also intends to make Lambeau Field a year-round tourism destination.
Conventions, reunions, meetings, weddings -- none of these were possible at Lambeau Field before, but are now.
That's likely to spark healthy interest statewide, but it's also going to attract visitors on a national level, including some who otherwise might not have made their way to Wisconsin's northeast corner.
"It's not just Green Bay and Brown County, it's the entire country that would like to come in and be a part of what I think is a sacred stadium," Packers President/CEO Bob Harlan said.
Nationwide interest means local success, not just for the Packers, but for neighboring businesses. Quite simply, more tourists mean more tourism dollars.
Already, the opportunity to use the Atrium's facilities is attracting people from across the country. Even before Thursday's announcement the Packers had booked more than 70 events, with 1,000 other leads waiting to be investigated.
Geurts-Bengtson said her phone has been ringing off the hook, and pointed to the recent ESPN The Magazine report that named the Packers the No. 1 professional sports organization in North America as a sign of the team's widespread appeal.
"This facility is going to have a tremendous effect on tourism here in Green Bay," she said.
For that reason, Blaze Brigman, the general manager of the KI Convention Center and Regency Suites in Green Bay, said he welcomed the Atrium as a partner.
"We understand that realistically this will help make Green Bay a year-round destination, and that's what we're excited about," Brigman said.
Packers fans are sure to be excited as well.
After all, how many venues offer the chance to host a reception for 1,400 on the other side of an 85-foot high by 208-foot wide glass window? How many venues offer views of some of the most hallowed grounds in sports?
Only one, the Lambeau Field Atrium.
"(Packers fans) love the history of Lambeau Field, the significance of what Lambeau Field means to the National Football League," Harlan said. "They want to be a part of it.
"We've never been able to give them that opportunity to use this stadium, and now we can."