Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, continues to evolve. And that's a good thing for the team, the fans and the community.
On Tuesday, the Packers announced their latest renovation target - the Lambeau Field Atrium.
The $140.5 million project will be paid with private funding and an NFL loan. The renovation includes relocation of the Packers Pro Shop to a bigger, more visible space; relocation of the Packers Hall of Fame and Curly's Pub; construction of an east-side entrance; and renovation to the Oneida Nation Gate so it is larger and includes a plaza.
It is the last phase of a stadium renovation project that began two years ago with a new sound system, new video boards, two new gates and about 7,000 seats in the stadium, most of those in the south end zone. All phases of this project will cost a total of $286.5 million. The Packers stress that none of this funding will come from public tax money.
Yet public tax money helped finance the $295 million renovations the team undertook from 2001-2003 when Lambeau received the most drastic facelift in its storied history. A half-cent county sales tax helped fund that work.
The team should benefit from added revenues. A larger, more prominent Pro Shop that fronts Lombardi Avenue produces dollars the Packers need to compete with the rest of the league.
From the fans' perspective, any upgrades should be welcome. When all current renovations are done, the added seats will allow more fans to become season-ticket holders. The whole game-day and nongame-day experiences should be improved.
The benefit to the community is both tangible and intangible. For example, this current renovation is expected to employ about 1,500 workers over the next two years and provide more than $60 million in wages. The presence of a professional football team in Green Bay, with a renowned stadium, gives the community an economic impact of $282 million per year, according to a 2009 study. Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said the additional seats will be like an extra game a year in economic impact.
During the offseason, the stadium continues to draw fans. That economic impact would be even greater if the team hosted more large-scale events. While special events are held in the atrium, the bowl has been the site of one concert - Kenny Chesney - and one college hockey game since the last renovations were completed in 2003.
We're not the only ones calling for more. The team's landlord, the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District, in a December meeting expressed displeasure with the lack of large special events.
Murphy promised it will happen, though not until the dust settles, which will be 2015. "In June 2015 we will be ready to host a major bowl concert," Murphy said. "We all realize it's important and good for the community."
That might seem like a long time away, but consider this: All phases of the latest renovations will be done before the Minnesota Vikings can play a down in their new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2016. In fact, the Metrodome, which hosted its first NFL game in 1982, will have come and gone while Lambeau, which opened in 1957 as City Stadium, still stands.
Until then, the Vikings are stuck in a venue that doesn't inspire many tales of history.
Meanwhile, the Packers will continue to play in a stadium that has kept up with the times while embracing its past, its present and its future.
In 2011, Yahoo Sports and the National Football Post ranked Lambeau Field as the top NFL stadium. The Metrodome came in last. How many times have you heard anyone say, "At some point in your life, you need to see a game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis"? Never. How many times have football fans said that about Lambeau Field? All the time.
The wise decision 10 years ago to renovate the existing stadium and keep the old-school feel helped make it a year-round destination for not only Packers fans, but football fans from across the country. The latest renovations show the team keeping up with the times and making Lambeau legendary and not a relic.