The Green Bay Packers' 2003 football season has been over for two months now, yet day after day a corner of Lambeau Field remains busy.
It's the southeast corner, the area of the stadium where Packers players enter and exit the field on game days, and where Packers fans enter and exit the field nearly every other day of the year.
Packers fans walk through the southeast stadium tunnel thanks to Lambeau Field stadium tours, which include the chance to stand at the edge of some of the most hallowed grounds in professional sports.
Due to redevelopment construction, stadium tours were shut down for all of 2002, but have been more popular than ever since re-opening in late October 2003.
In less than five months, more than 21,500 fans have taken the tour, compared to 20,526 fans for all of 2000 and 18,606 fans for all of 2001.
"The recent success of the stadium tours has exceeded our own expectations," Packers Vice President/COO John Jones said. "What we're hearing from our fans is that they enjoy the chance to not only learn more about Packers history, but to walk around the building and see some of the unique attractions."
Lambeau Field stadium tours begin at Robert E. Harlan Plaza next to the 14-foot bronze statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. From there, the tour goes inside the Lambeau Field Atrium, including a stop at the Associated Bank level where Paul Hornung's 1956 Heisman Trophy is on display.
From one of the club suites, fans can get a view of Lambeau Field from above. But the biggest thrill for most visitors comes later when they get the chance to walk through the Packers' team tunnel and see what's frequently referred to as the Frozen Tundra.
For Jeffery Sandler of Madison, Wis., who "scratches and claws" for the chance to attend one or two home games a season, walking into the stadium was cause for goose bumps.
"I could feel the energy, definitely," Sandler said after completing a recent tour. "When I came to the part of the tunnel where they have the three concrete slabs from the old tunnel (at the north end of the stadium), I got chills thinking about all the players that have walked over that ground. It was pretty amazing."
For many, amazing is simply the chance to see the inside of the stadium.
Lambeau Field has been sold out on a season-ticket basis for more than 40 years, making firsthand glimpses of the interior a rare treat even for area residents.
Mickey Kule, of Two Rivers, Wis., took the tour with his son and appreciated the chance to get an up-close look at the renovations.
"I loved being in the Atrium," Kule said. "It looks big from the outside, but when you walk in it's huge. I love the way they blended the old parts of the stadium with the new. It's very impressive."
Stadium tours last approximately 50-60 minutes and are available every day except game days and some major holidays.
For fans who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the crowds, there's no better time to take the tour than during the offseason months prior to training camp.
"We're very pleased that people have continued to come out to Lambeau Field even in the offseason," Jones said. "With the Packers Hall of Fame, the Packers Pro Shop and Curly's Pub, there's definitely a lot to see, but for many fans the chance to take a stadium tour and to walk out to the field itself is unrivaled."
Admission for stadium tours is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (62-and-over) and $5 for children ages 5-11. Those under 5 get in free.
For more information, call the stadium tour hotline at 920-965-3709, or click here.