Nick McDermid of Pulaski will travel to San Francisco for the Green Bay Packers' NFC divisional playoff game against the 49ers on Saturday. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
One of Nick McDermid's prized Green Bay Packers possessions is a framed and signed Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl photo, complete with championship belt, at his home in Pulaski. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
Crystal and Jared Schmidt of Green Bay attended the Green Bay Packers-Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome during the Packers' last Super Bowl run. / Submitted
One Green Bay Packers fan hopes to see Donald Driver — and a notorious former prison. Another plans to watch his second favorite National Football League team. A third will check out the mass-transit system in hopes of improving things back in Green Bay.
But they and other Northeastern Wisconsin residents who will head to San Francisco this weekend are, of course, going to see their Packers take on the San Francisco 49ers Saturday for the right to play in the NFC Championship game.
Wisconsinites are using ticket brokers, travel agents and — perhaps most importantly — connections to land game tickets, which sold out Monday in 180 seconds.
“We have just under 600 people going to San Francisco with us,” said Dennis Garrity, president and chief executive of Packer Fan Tours in Ashwaubenon. “Some are going for one night, some for two, and some are making a mini-vacation out of it.”
He said one-night packages with air travel are available for as little as $499, depending on whether the person flies from Green Bay, Appleton, Madison or Milwaukee. Two-night packages start at $569. The business plans to offer travel packages to Atlanta for the Jan. 20 NFC title game, provided that both Falcons and the Packers win this week. If the Seattle Seahawks beat the Falcons on Sunday, the Packers would host the Seahawks the following weekend at Lambeau Field.
Rose Gray, business development manager at Fox World Travel, said demand for travel packages overall was “moderate,” which is to be expected when fans are weighing whether to travel to San Francisco or wait for the possibility of the Packers playing in next weekend’s NFC Championship game, or even the Super Bowl.
“It’s tough for people to decide,” Gray said.
Fox World Travel, which has 11 offices across Wisconsin, was offering packages including one-night hotel, game tickets and game-day land travel starting at $499, with flights booked separately.
“If you’d thought about going, you’ve made your decision at this point,” Gray said.
Packers fanhood a family affair
For a family who jumped in the car and drove more than half the day to watch the Packers play the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs two seasons ago, a drive to Milwaukee and a flight to San Francisco is a piece of cake.
“Going to Atlanta ended up being one of the most fun things I’ve ever done,” Green Bay resident Crystal Schmidt said of the 16-hour odyssey with her husband, Jared; her sister, Priscilla; and Priscilla’s husband, Kevin Wilson. “So last week, my sister said, ‘Hey, we have to do this again!’”
Crystal Schmidt, 27, said the Atlanta trip was full of pleasant surprises, including a person who chose the foursome at random to sit at a reserved table and drink and eat without charge during a TV broadcast the night before the game. The following day; the Packers demolished the higher-seeded home team, 48-21, behind three Aaron Rodgers scoring passes, en route to a Super Bowl title.
This year’s travel time will be shorter, and surprisingly affordable. Round-trip airfare was $211 per person. Game tickets cost about $225 each. Hotel rooms, Schmidt said, were “reasonable.”
Her hopes for her time in San Francisco?
“Well, I love (veteran Packers receiver) Donald Driver, so I hope he gets to play,” she said, and paused. “That, and I hope we get to take a tour of Alcatraz.”
A friend in high places
Three nights at a downtown San Francisco hotel: $470. Flight from Milwaukee: About $300. Tickets ... face value?
“Yeah, we paid $104 apiece,” said Nick McDermid, 32, of Pulaski, sounding both sheepish and proud. “I have a buddy who is retired from the Packers organization.”
He’s fortunate — game tickets made available to the public Monday were gone in three minutes. The ticket-selling website StubHub.com had a little more than 7,019 available Wednesday morning, ranging from $186 to $5,555.
The Packers-49ers matchup is currently the most in demand game on StubHub.com, a national online ticket reseller, according to spokeswoman Shannon Barbara, with ticket prices averaging $296. However, less than 2 percent of ticket buyers are traveling from Wisconsin, Barbara said.
While McDermid lists the Packers among his favorite teams — he’s traveled to St. Louis and other cities to see them, they are not No. 1. That honor belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals, who have been in the playoffs four times since 1990.
“That happened by accident, I guess,” he said.
Mixing business with pleasure
Tom Wittig plans to watch the Packers in California, but he is flying to San Francisco this week so he can ride a bus.
As Green Bay Metro Transit director, Wittig hopes to bring back some ideas on how to improve the local mass-transit system, in addition to a playoff win for his favorite football team.
“I plan to have a good time, and to conduct a little bit of business,” said Wittig, who has followed the Packers since he was a child in the Milwaukee area. He said he plans to touch base with an official of the Golden Gate Transit system — and ride its buses and a cable car or two — and seeks to come away with ideas about how to add park-and-ride locations in an urban area.
But that’s not his only purpose.
As soon as the Packers’ had secured a victory over the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, Wittig was on the telephone with a ticket broker. Then he was in touch with a travel agent, who was able to book him a downtown hotel and a seat on a flight from Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport to San Francisco via Minneapolis.
The trip, he said, is not a budget excursion, but also isn’t extravagant.
“I’m paying enough to have fun,” he said, “because I’m a Packers fan, like everybody else around here.”
The San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the season’s opening week. The location of the game was reported incorrectly in print and an earlier online version Jan. 9 and 10.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PGDougSchneider