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Murphy Takes 5: Excitement building for opening day


Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO, Mark Murphy. On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

At all levels of football, opening day carries special excitement. Every year stands on its own, and fans (and players) are excited to see how new players will perform and what the new season will bring.

At the college level, opening-day games often feature mismatches between schools from smaller conferences against schools from lager conferences. In the NFL, though, the schedule-makers tend to put some of the best matchups on opening day. Our opener against the 49ers is a great example of this type of scheduling. The game features the best two teams in the NFL during the regular season last year, and our explosive offense against the 49ers' top-ranked defense. The game figures to have playoff implications and should provide great entertainment for all football fans.

I'm especially excited for the opener this year because it will be the first opportunity for many of our fans to see the changes at Lambeau Field. Our new HD video boards are a huge improvement and greatly enhance the fans' ability to follow and enjoy the game. The new Bellin Health Gate at the north end of the stadium will make it much easier for club seat and suite patrons and fans with disabilities to enter and exit Lambeau Field. The North Loft under the north scoreboard will provide a new, unique viewing option for fans. Also, we have a new food concessionaire, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, with many more concession stands than in previous years.

Fans also will be able to see firsthand the progress that's been made on the seating in the South End Zone. These new seats will be ready for the 2013 season and we're excited about the impact these seats will have on Lambeau Field's gameday experience and home-field advantage.

Personally, I'm very excited for the season. I think we have a chance to have another strong year. I'm anxious to see how our rookies and younger players will contribute to the team, particularly on defense. The month of September, with three great home games, will be a tremendous time for Packers fans.

Now, on to your questions:

John from Appleton, WI

Why do the Packers still have bench seating in the bowl? The seats are very uncomfortable and cold in the later part of the season. It seems like most other NFL stadiums have chair-back seats. Come on, Packers, we're not living in the '60s anymore.

Thanks, John. This is a question that I often get from fans. We actually looked at converting the benches to seats in conjunction with the 2003 renovation, and reevaluated the situation more recently. The challenge is that we would have to completely reconfigure the bowl in order to switch to seats, and would lose approximately 12,000 seats in the process. The benches are much narrower than seats and require less space in each row. Also, seats are much deeper than the benches and, as a result, we estimate that we would only be able to fit 44 rows in the seating bowl rather than the current 60.

I also receive questions from people asking why we don't have railings in the seating bowl. It is really a similar situation to the issue with the benches. The stadium was designed without railings, and we would have to make major changes to add railings. The aisles are narrow and it would be difficult for people to go up and down if railings were in the middle of the aisles. Also, the railings would affect the sight lines to the field for some fans.

So, for these reasons, we've decided to keep the bench seating in the bowl. I encourage all of our season-ticket holders to consider a move to the South End if the current bench seating is difficult for them. The South End has railings, chair-backs and cup holders, as well as easier access, more concessions and restrooms per ticket holder. I've already heard from many ticket holders interested in moving, and they have until Sept. 20 to make the decision. Also, we have portable chairs available for rent as an option in the bowl to help with seating comfort.

A question from Dan

Mr. Murphy, with the new seats in the south, how many are season and how many are general public?

There will be approximately 7,000 new seats in the South End, with about 6,000 for general seating and roughly 1,000 for premium customers and sponsors/partners. The general seats will be sold on a season-ticket basis. We will have both Green and Gold ticket packages for these seats, just as we do for seats in the bowl. These seats are being offered first to season-ticket holders and then to people on our waiting list. Season-ticket holders have received information on the process. If you are interested in premium seating, you are asked to contact a premium seating representative at 920-569-7260. No seats are available for the general public, but we continue to have our seat drawing for Brown County residents.

A question from Andy

With all the bad things that can happen on a kick return. Why not just take it at the 20-yard line every time unless the kick is short of the goal line?

Thanks, Andy. It is a play that has been discussed by owners in recent years. The biggest issue with kickoffs is the high rate of injury. It is, by far, the most dangerous play in our game. We've made rules changes to improve the safety of the play (including moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line last year) and continue to look at ways to decrease the number of injuries on kickoffs.

How to approach the play is really a strategic decision that coaches make. Typically, if a returner fields the ball more than 5 yards deep in the end zone, he is instructed to take a knee. If you have a great return man, if may be worth the risk to have him return the ball regardless of how deep he is in the end zone. In our opening game against the Saints last year, Randall Cobb's 108-yard return was a key play in the game, and later was voted the most exciting play of the season.

Nick from Crivitz, WI

Mr. Murphy, this season the Gold package has two Thursday night games. While I welcome the opportunity to watch a Packers-Bears game, a Thursday night game sure is challenging for those coming from the Milwaukee area. At minimum, one must take off from work Thursday afternoon; some have difficulty making it to work Friday morning. Can't something be done with the scheduling in the future to avoid these Monday/Thursday night Gold games?

Nick, this is a question that I get quite a bit from fans. We would prefer to have more of our preseason games on weekend nights. This year, though, the NFL set the date of our first preseason game on a Thursday (it was a national TV game), and from a football preparation perspective, it was best to have a full week to prepare for each of the last three preseason games to get the team ready for the regular season. If we have a home preseason game on a weekend night and one on a Thursday night, we will almost always make the game on the weekend the Gold package game for the reasons you listed. In terms of regular season games, the Gold package always receives the second and fifth games. Over time, it should even out so that the Gold package doesn't receive too many night games.

A question from Technical Sergeant William

Sir, I was wondering what the Green Bay Packers organization does for military troop support. I feel a lot of support goes to the troops downrange, and more specifically was wanting to know what kind of support was shown to military spouses that take care of everything while we are away defending our country.

Thank you, William, for your service to our country.

The Green Bay Packers have a long history of supporting service men and women and their families, support that continues today in a variety of ways. This season we will enjoy our sixth year of Operation Fan Mail, a gameday program that recognizes military families and the sacrifices they make on behalf of our country. A salute takes place on the field before the national anthem and is one of my favorite gameday programs. We've saluted nearly 50 families over the past six years. They receive four tickets to the game and a Packers Pro Shop gift card. Anyone interested in submitting a family for selection can do so online here.

Our community outreach department also helps with our connection to military families through the hundreds of care packages and messages of support they send to deployed soldiers. Lambeau Field also has been the site of sendoffs of deploying units and change-of-command ceremonies.

League-wide, the NFL and all 32 clubs salute members of the armed forces through military appreciation games, in conjunction with Veteran's Day in November.

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