You don’t have to be a football enthusiast to appreciate the story of the Green Bay Packers or to enjoy a tour of their home, Lambeau Field. (I’m not, and I did.) The 4-time Super Bowl champs are known world over for their ultra-loyal following, win or lose. In fact, it’s the only major league professional sports team owned entirely by fans.
The stadium in Green Bay, Wis., is named in honor of co-founder and former head coach Curly Lambeau. It was built in 1957 and expanded several times, most recently in 2013. Today it seats about 80,000 fans, but you probably won’t get to see the team play in person. Games have sold out since the 1960s. The waiting list for season tickets is over 100,000 names long, and there’s not much turnover. It will take about 30 years for your name to get to the top. If you’re serious, you usually can get single-game tickets through third-party brokers.
(For comparison, Green Bay is the smallest National Football League city, with a population of about 105,000 residents.)
Several levels of guided stadium tours are given most days of the year, except during home games and other special events. From inside the Atrium entrance, volunteer docents lead the way and share the history of the team, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Back in 1919, local sports enthusiasts Curly Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun organized a sandlot football team. They named themselves the Packers after their sponsor, the Indian Packing Co., and turned pro two years later.
The corridors are lined with artwork depicting momentous occasions like the annual childrens’ bicycle ride to accompany players on their first day of training camp, and the December 31, 1967, game against the Dallas Cowboys when temperatures sank to -13 degrees Fahrenheit. The official team colors are bay green and cheddar gold, so there’s a lot of those colors around.
On the tour, you’ll view the stadium bowl, scoreboards and the pristine bluegrass playing field. The seats are predominantly metal bleachers, without back support or cushioning, guaranteed to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Fans obviously don’t care. If the bleachers were replaced with individual seats, the team would lose 10,000 seats, and we can’t have that. There are also 168 luxe indoor suites, but most are corporately owned.
What you won’t see is the jungle of advertising that pervades most sporting venues. The Packers don’t allow it, giving their field a sleek and clean appearance. Now will you see the home team locker room, which is used by the players year-round.
Make time to meander through the two-level Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, also on the Atrium level. High-tech, interactive displays and a treasure trove of championship bling and other artifacts recount the team’s early beginnings and crowning glories. Among them are a showcase of team uniforms over the years and tributes to players who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Next door to the Hall of Fame, also on the Atrium level, the Packers Pro Shop beckons with signature green-and-gold merchandise. Much of it is touristy bric-a-brac, but some bears designer labels like Tommy Bahama and Dooney & Bourke along with Packer logos. You can’t miss the fully restored 1958 bay-green Chevrolet pickup-truck overflowing with foam hats shaped like wedges of cheese. (A sometimes derogatory name for Wisconsin-ites is “cheeseheads.”)
After your tour, stroll across Ridge Road to the Titletown Entertainment District and stop at Hinterland, Green Bay’s first brewery and a farm-to-table eatery. Order a bottle or Packerland Pilsner and a plate of fried cheese curds–another fine Wisconsin tradition.
For tickets and more information on Lambeau Field Stadium Tours, 1265 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay, click here.