Even before the renovation project broke ground in 2001, the Packers had in Lambeau Field one of the most revered venues in professional sports.
Few teams are so lucky. But as the renovation project nears its fall completion date, Lambeau Field approaches an exciting new era when the fans' love for the stadium will remain, and their chances to appreciate it will increase.
Starting in September with the opening of the Lambeau Field Atrium, Packers fans will be allowed to do something previously impossible: host a special event at Lambeau Field.
January 30, the Packers announced that they would begin officially accepting special events bookings for the Lambeau Field Atrium, and in doing so added fuel to what was already an inferno of interest from fans nationwide.
Almost a month since that announcement, the Packers' executive of special events Dee Geurts-Bengtson continues to be flooded with calls and emails from potential clients.
In the midst of the madness, she sat down with Packers.com to provide an update and answer some frequently asked questions.
Packers.com: When the announcement was made January 30 that the Packers would begin officially accepting special events bookings for the Lambeau Field Atrium, you already had reservations for 70 events. How has that number grown in the last month?
Dee Geurts-Bengtson: "At this point we have approximately 120 dates confirmed or tentatively booked for private events at the Lambeau Field Atrium."
In late January you had more than 1,000 potential leads to track down. What's happened to that number?
"It's increased as well. Either from calls or emails that we receive from people who go to Packers.com, the interest grows every day. On average, I would say we get about 20 new inquiries a day from people who are legitimately interested in hosting an event at Lambeau Field."
At that rate things must be filling up rather quickly.
"Most definitely. Our first official private event will be the Friends Of St. Mary's Gala, September 5, as part of our grand opening week. From that point on the weekends from September through December are either tentatively booked or confirmed.
"Weekends are also filling up pretty quickly in the wedding months of April, May and June. But really we've had interest all over the board, with corporate events filling things up midweek and social groups filling in the weekends.
"Now, that doesn't mean that we don't have dates available, especially in the offseason. And we always want people to call and check, in case we have any openings. But I can say that the bookings have been doing tremendously well."
Obviously people are fighting for those Saturdays in the regular season in the hope that their event turns out to be on the eve of a Packers home game, but what about the months of August or January when preseason or playoff games might be on a Saturday night?
"Because of the potential for a Saturday game in those months, we just can't book anything for those nights. With the preseason there is a little more wiggling room because we find out the schedule earlier than the playoff schedule, which is week to week. But until the schedule is announced, we just can't book events on those Saturdays in question. On the other hand, people are often surprised -- not to mention excited -- to hear that they can book an event on a Saturday before a home game. That's not a problem."
That said, how far ahead of time are you willing to book an event, say if someone is more determined to host an event on a regular season Saturday rather than this year?
"We're willing to schedule events as far ahead as they are willing to look. We already have some events in the books for 2004."
Construction is still in the works throughout much of the Atrium, but much of it has taken shape. For those clients who have taken tours of the banquet facilities recently, what's been the reaction?
"I'd say the biggest reaction is surprise. People see the diagrams of the Atrium and the Legends Club level, but until they actually go there it's almost impossible to imagine the expansiveness of the area. Many of them are under the perception that there's just the Legends Club room, but when they see what I call the 'prefunction area' outside the Legends Club room, they realize what a great opportunity it is to hold their event at Lambeau Field."
For Packers fans, getting to host an event at Lambeau Field is like a dream come true, but the Atrium isn't a gimmick. Before you talk about all the features that make the Atrium unique, can you talk about how it compares to other banquet venues?
"Well, certainly the Atrium has a lot to offer, but you're right that even removed from the stadium environment, it's an incredible facility. When you look at the Legends Club room, it's impossible not to appreciate the décor. People always comment on the beautiful woodwork, for example, or the carpeting, or the tables and chairs.
"Everything about the Atrium is first class, state of the art. So even without the remainder of the Lambeau Field environment, we would be very competitive in the meeting and banquet world because of the quality of the facilities.
"The audio/video equipment we have available, for example, is top of the line, so that no corporate group should have any technical needs that we can't meet.
"And for wedding groups, it's just a beautiful space that people would love to use even if they aren't Packers fans. It's not like all the weddings at the Atrium are going to have people wearing green and gold. I can't tell you how many times people walk into the Legends Club room and just say, 'Wow!'"
Which brings us to all the ways the Atrium is a one of a kind experience.
"Exactly. It all starts with Lambeau Field. A lot of people are aware that the Legends Club windows actually face east and look out over Oneida Street, not into the stadium. What they often don't realize -- first of all -- is that the view to the east is beautiful in itself, and -- second of all -- that we make available to them glass boxes off the Legends Club level to view Lambeau Field. For everyone that comes here, that's another 'wow' experience.
"People booking events also want to work in a Lambeau Field tour, or a Packers Hall of Fame tour. Or they want to have their reception on the Club Level and then go down and enjoy the brewpub that we'll have in the Atrium.
"And of course there's the opportunity to shop at the Packers Pro Shop as well, and to take in the interactive areas of the Atrium. It's more than just a meeting or banquet facility."
You mentioned the Packers Hall of Fame. What if someone hosts an event that doesn't correspond with normal business hours?
"For events like that, say in the evening, we can certainly make available the Packers Hall of Fame. Of course that would have to be worked into the pricing of the event, but it's definitely an option. We're really trying to make sure everyone comes away with the best experience possible."
What are the options with catering?
"That's something we get asked about a lot. Levy Restaurants is our exclusive caterer, so you cannot bring your own outside caterer. Of course when people hear about Levy's outstanding background in restaurants and fine dining, that's never a problem. By the quality of their food, Levy just adds to the quality of the event."
That brings up cost. What's the pricing for holding an event at the Atrium?
"Well, as you can see, some of that depends on exactly what you want your package to include. In general we have three different pricing levels. Naturally Fridays and Saturdays during the season are the highest level, followed by midweek in-season pricing. Our offseason pricing is our least expensive.
"And I'm pleased to say that people haven't been taken aback by the pricing. I think people really understand that it's a complete entertainment experience that we're selling and that they're buying. It's not just a banquet facility at a hotel, for example. So for the most part people expect that it's going to be a little bit more expensive to host your event here, but we definitely think they're getting what they pay for."
Those interested in booking an event at the Lambeau Field Atrium can contact Geurts-Bengtson at 920-496-5700, or click here.