Although it gets the most attention, the tundra of Lambeau Field isn't where all the action is on Packers game days. As it turns out, there are plenty of activities going on in the Lambeau Field Atrium as well.
While all eyes are on the Green and Gold when they take the field each week, the Atrium is also a popular destination before and after the game. There, you can find restaurants, eateries, the Packers Hall of Fame and the Packers Pro Shop.
There is no other place in the NFL with this unique setup and many argue there are no fans as dedicated and excited about their team as Packer Backers. Take one look at the surrounding areas of Lambeau Field on any game day and the evidence speaks for itself. For those fans that just can't enough of the Packers, the Atrium has it all.
Dennis Fenrick, the Manager of Atrium Operations, oversees the special events setup, the Atrium housekeeping, the Hall of Fame and the stadium tours. He said that game day is always buzzing with fans just wanting to be one step closer to the action.
The biggest challenge, according to Fenrick, is preparing for an event called the Game Day Package. The package includes a tailgate party in the first floor of the Atrium, as well as game programs, live entertainment and the thrill of watching the Packers play at historic Lambeau Field.
"I book the band and coordinate with getting it set up with our catering team," Fenrick said. "The event opens up when the gates open, which is 2 hours and 15 minutes before the game time."
Fenrick said tickets to the event are sold in increments of 50 and attract a variety of different customers.
"It can be anywhere from corporate organizations to birthday parties," Fenrick said. "Sometimes we get groups of 150 that buy three blocks, sometimes 50 to 100 buy one or two blocks. We also have had one big party buy all 400 seats."
When the Packers and their opponents are battling it out on the gridiron, Fenrick and his staff are also working hard to clean up the area used for the Atrium tailgate party.
"Basically what we are doing at kickoff and after is clearing that out and getting it cleaned up so when it comes time to leave the game there is a nice flow and there is nothing impeding the people to get out of the building," Fenrick said.
Although the Atrium is relatively new, Fenrick admitted that getting ready for the events isn't nearly as difficult as it once was.
"Game days are so routine that our main focus is getting ready for the day," Fenrick explained. "It's important that we get a lot of areas cleaned up that need to be cleaned up, but a lot of it is done in advance of game day."
Stadium Tours And Hall Of Fame Popular Attractions
Of course, the Atrium isn't popular only on game days. It operates year-round and training camp is one of the busiest times of the year. During that time, the stadium tours are a fan favorite.
On game day weekends, tours run on Saturdays from noon until 6:00 p.m,. every 15 minutes. During training camp, the tours also run every 15 minutes and sell out very early, according to Fenrick.
"They are huge," Fenrick explained. "In training camp there are 900 plus people a day for the tours and they sell out within an hour and a half. As fast as you get people through the line they are selling out. Even on game weekends, we usually sell out by noon."
Fenrick said the stadium tours are successful for a number of reasons.
"You could spend all day talking about the stadium tours," Fenrick explained. "People just love them. They really get to see a little bit of everything. The biggest thing is being able to walk out through the tunnel and up to the field. They get to walk through the same place Packer legends have walked through. We've had people break down and cry it means so much to them.
"It's unique. It touches people in different ways. It's certainly not uncommon for people to walk through there with tears in their eyes. It happens on a daily basis."
Fenrick admitted that nothing surprises him anymore when it comes to the tours.
"We had a guy buy out the entire tour so he could propose," Fenrick said. "We do up to 30 people per tour and the guy came in and bought the entire tour out so he could go down the field and propose to his girlfriend."
If the stadium tours are sold out, fans can always check out the Packers Hall of Fame, which includes 77 exhibits featuring Packers fans, the Ice Bowl, the three Super Bowl trophies, plaques of all 130 members of the Packers Hall of Fame, today's team and even a re-creation of Vince Lombardi's office.
A kids area lets little fans do the Lambeau Leap, throw passes and kick field goals. Simply put, the Hall of Fame is attractive for new fans, old fans and young fans.
According to Fenrick, original plans called for the Hall of Fame to be open every day except Sunday, but there was such a demand to experience it that it's now open until kickoff.
"People really like to see it," Fenrick said. "The Hall of Fame really has some great stuff in there from every era. It's also interactive with a lot of video. People can actually see footage from the 1920s, walk through all those different times, and see how the team progressed. Plus, you get to see the rings and the trophies.
"While a lot of people know the history of the team, when they can walk through, touch it, and feel it, it's a different story."
The Hall of Fame was located across the street before the renovation of Lambeau Field, but Fenrick said the decision to open it in the Atrium has been a wise one.
"Some of the numbers I saw in the first seven months we were open, we did more business than they ever did in their biggest year across the street," Fenrick explained.
"I just think being over here that with everything else there is to do it makes it that much more successful. People can visit the Hall of Fame, take the stadium tour, and go to the Pro Shop without having to go from place to place."
Many Reasons For Success
Clearly, the Atrium and what it has to offer are very important to fans everyday of the week -- including game days -- but what makes it such a successful operation?
"I think it takes good employees and always being organized," Fenrick said. "It's working not just for today, but working for three, four or five weeks in advance. It keeps things fresh and keeps things moving along. But it comes down to having a key support staff. For me, I couldn't do it without my support staff. There's no way I could do it by myself."
The two people that work under Fenrick are Brad "Gus" Gustafson, the Supervisor of Atrium Services and Dana Maedke, the Hall of Fame Coordinator. Fenrick said, "Without them and the work they do, I couldn't do what I do."
Fenrick knows that all Atrium employees and their hard work play a vital role in the success of the organization.
"We don't have an owner with a deep pocket or a shallow pocket, we just don't have an owner," Fenrick explained. "So our money has to come from other revenue streams and the Atrium -- the stadium tours, the special events, Hall of Fame and the restaurants. They are all bringing in extra cash flow into the organization that helps maintain and bring in the players that make the organization successful."
This success has caught the attention of other prominent people in the NFL as well. The Packers are the only team that has the uniqueness of the Atrium setup, but it's probably only a matter of time before someone else takes the same approach.
"They'll definitely try to mimic it," Fenrick said. "I briefly met with (Dallas Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones when he was here and he said, 'this works, this is what I want to do.' He couldn't get enough of it. He came here on game day and he was very impressed."
"I also met two retired gentleman here for the St. Louis game that were going to every away game for the Rams and they said they were blown away by Lambeau Field. The said it was the coolest thing they had ever seen and that there was nothing even close to it in the NFL."
And you'd be hard-pressed to find a Packer fan that disagrees with that statement.