Despite hosting an unexpected playoff game this month, Lambeau Field remains on schedule to complete Phase I of its two-year renovation by the 2002 season, construction spokesman Stu Zadra said Wednesday.
During an hour-long tour with Wisconsin media, Zadra added that the project's primary focus is demolition of the old skyboxes. The bowl of the stadium now resembles a ghost town, with the face of every existing skybox open and its interior gutted. That first tier of demolition began Jan. 15, just 48 hours after the Packers beat the 49ers in an NFC Wild Card playoff game.
The second, major tier of demolition, which will completely wipe out the skybox skeleton, begins next week. Crews will carefully collapse the suites, protecting both the new structure and existing seating bowl below. Demolition will progress on the sidelines from north to south, with crews working around the clock in two shifts for about six weeks. Once the Packers move into their new locker room and administrative offices later this summer, crews will demolish skyboxes in the end zones. Workers will disconnect wiring that supplies power to the scoreboards, but will reconnect them before the 2002 season.
Inside the stadium bowl, the only enclosed structure that demolition crews haven't touched is the old six-level press box, on the west elevation. However, work continues on the new press box, where members of the media will work beginning with the team's first preseason game this August. The new press area, which will stretch from end zone to end zone, will hold at least 225 writers and sportscasters. Although media's game vantage point is higher than the old structure, the new press box will give all media a seat on the sideline. Most new stadiums, in order to make room for luxury suites, moved press boxes to the corner end-zone or behind the goal posts.
In order to meet league guidelines, the network broadcast booth, which houses the TV play-by-play announcer and color commentator, will be lower than the press box. More than a year and-a-half ago, the Packers and their architects met with the NFL, and representatives from FOX and CBS to agree on locations for the booth, as well as camera locations.
New skyboxes will come in three sizes: Super, Legend and Champion. The 14 Super boxes, largest in size, will contain a private restroom. All suites will give fans the opportunity to open and close windows, something the old boxes didn't allow. The 20 medium-sized Legend boxes and even the 132 smaller Champion suites more than double the size of their predecessors. New boxes will also give users much more counter space.
The suite-level concourse will contain corridors much wider than the hallways ticket holders used to access. Both east and west sides will offer fans an atrium-like balcony view of the areas below.
Once demolition is complete, crews will work in assembly-line fashion to complete the new skyboxes in time for the Packers first preseason contest vs. Cleveland, the third week of August. The Packers asked the NFL to host their first of two preseason home games as late as possible, to allow crews to finish Phase I of renovation.
The project's main challenge at this point is to connect structures that have gone up since construction began, with structures yet to be built, where the old skyboxes once stood. Layout of the suites, for example, is only half finished. They will move literally forward once demolition is finished.
Another major project that must be completed before that game is the new upper concourse. Lambeau was one of the only major sports facilities still in use to have just one concourse. Starting next year, though, fans won't have to travel as far to access restrooms and concessions. What's more, the existing lower concourse will more than double in size. Fans may still see portable restrooms at games next season. They will disappear as Phase II progresses into the 2002 season, adding new restrooms on the end-zone concourses.