GREEN BAY—Eleven years ago, when the original Robert E. Harlan Plaza with larger-than-life statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi was dedicated in front of the Lambeau Field Atrium, Bob Harlan spoke of what an honor it was to have his name associated with "this jewel of a stadium" and to share the space "with the two greatest legends in Packers history."
The former Packers president and CEO didn't need to change the script much on Wednesday.
The new Robert E. Harlan Plaza was dedicated following the latest Atrium renovation, and Harlan remained "deeply honored and deeply grateful."
"When I look at the new plaza today, I think those words remain very, very appropriate," he said in front of a modest gathering of folks who worked on the project, as well as a number of Packers employees and staff, including Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson.
"Everyone has done a marvelous job and I'm very proud of it. This stadium keeps getting better and better."
The new plaza, which had been in front of the main doors to the Atrium, now sits on a lower ground level and slightly to the west of its original location. The renovation has created a new ground floor to house the new Packers Pro Shop, which will open on July 17, with twice the space of the original store, all on one floor.
The new Pro Shop was the impetus for the entire project, which lowered the plaza by 20 feet, put more space between the iconic statues and added an extended staircase within entirely new landscaping, designed by the same architects who worked on Millennium Park in Chicago.
The Green Bay Packers rededicated Harlan Plaza on July 9. Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, as well as chairman emeritus and former Packers President/CEO Bob Harlan, spoke at the event. Photos by Tyler Gajewski, Packers.com.
"It's very different but it still remains a great tribute to Bob Harlan and all the great things he did for the Packers in his time here," said Harlan's successor as president and CEO, Mark Murphy. "The centerpiece remains Vince and Curly, a great tribute to Packers history."
Murphy proceeded to list a number of Harlan's major accomplishments during his 36-year career with the Packers, 19 of which he served as president – the building of the Don Hutson Center, the hiring of Ron Wolf as GM, the difficult but necessary decision to move all the team's home games to Green Bay and, by far most important, the spearheading of the referendum that produced the Lambeau redevelopment that was completed in 2003.
"The future of the organization was in doubt prior to that," Murphy said, echoing words Harlan has spoken many times and did again on Wednesday. "Now we're in much better position to compete on and off the field with other teams."
Murphy added that lowering the plaza to create the space for the new Pro Shop required the removal of 50,000 cubic yards of dirt, or 2,200 dump-truck loads. The landscaping features a total of 27,000 shrubs and trees, including 13 white spire birch trees on the hillside behind the statues.
"There's a reason we have 13," Murphy said, referring to the franchise's 13 world championships. "We left room for 14 and 15 and on and on."