Packers houses are increasingly popular, and more expensive, around Lambeau Field Wochit
GREEN BAY - They are called "Packers party houses," and some of them are, but their use has evolved in the dozen years since the first party houses opened on Stadium Drive in Ashwaubenon and Shadow Lane in Green Bay.
Property prices on the streets closest to the stadium are booming and that is changing how the houses are used.
The most recent evolution was out-of-town buyers who demolished existing houses on Shadow Lane, immediately north of the stadium, and replaced them with something bigger and more expensive.
Doug Schoepp, a Madison car dealer, started the trend, spending about $1 million to buy, demolish and rebuild 1233 Shadow Lane. Robert Endries of Brillion took the process further, spending $615,000 on 1225 Shadow Lane and replacing it with a $1.6 million, Lambeau Field-looking castle.
"I think as time goes on, you'll have 10 more of them," Endries said.
Houses on the residential streets closest to Lambeau now are routinely listed for $500,000 and one on Shadow Lane is on the market for $1 million.
A steep price escalation began with purchases in 2016 and shows no sign of slowing. Endries said he negotiated down to get to $615,000 for the existing house.
"It's nothing like we've ever seen before," said Mark Olejniczak of Mark D. Olejniczak Realty, Allouez. "I don't know if it would happen in any other city but Green Bay. Packers Nation extends throughout the world."
Economically, there are benefits and challenges to owning and selling houses near Lambeau Field.
High prices are a boon to long-time property owners, who might sell them for three or four times what they paid.
But there also are challenges for sellers. For example, sales might have to be cash deals, because appraisals necessary to obtain a loan won't support prices that much more than similar properties in other locations. That might limit buyers. High prices can also make it financially untenable to operate the houses as a rental business, further limiting the pool of buyers.
At the same time, as property values increase across the area, they will eventually drive up taxes for neighbors who continue to live in their homes.
"It's like anything with limited supply," said Green Bay Assessor Russ Schwandt. "The market goes up and we have to respond to that at some point. I have adjusted the land value over there in the past couple of years. We are not at 100 percent now because I'm not sure what 100 percent is. There are a lot of variables out there."
Long-time homeowners resisted the changes a decade ago, and some are still not pleased with the direction the neighborhoods are taking, but the Packers' successful 25-year run and the building of the Titletown District make change inevitable.
"It's not a neighborhood in our sense of a northeast Wisconsin neighborhood anymore," said Paul Belschner of Hobart, owner of 1199 Shadow Lane. "It's gotten to be expected that the highest and best use is most appropriately in this manner."
There are four types of homeowners along Shadow Land and Stadium Drive: those who rent houses, which comes closest to the party house description, corporate-owned houses, part-time private owners and long-time residents.
Rental houses make up perhaps a third of the total. Although that share has been growing, it may have peaked in the area closest to the stadium.
"I think the market has surpassed where you can make a return on your investment," Belschner said. He bought the house before the most recent escalation of prices and rents it for games and special events.
A search of the Lambeau Field area turns up 21 rental offers on VRBO and a dozen on Airbnb. Most are several blocks away from Lambeau Field.
Future rental houses are likely to be developed further from the stadium, a factor that has concerned Ashwaubenon officials, who worry about losing affordable homes for young families.
"It will be interesting to see what happens with the next tier of streets," Olejniczak said. "No one will come in and pay $620,000 for a lot (on side streets) just to tear down the house and build new."
The owners of a two-bedroom house across Lombardi Avenue from Lambeau Field are seeking to sell the property for $1 million. Wochit
Corporations began buying houses early on and for the most part have held onto them.
"Some are using them for family and friends. Some using them for business purposes, where they're putting on a first-class party before the game for 50 to 100 people who are customers," Olejniczak said. "It's a great time and it's great for business."
Robinson Metal of Lawrence, LaForce Inc. of Green Bay and WLUK-TV of Ashwaubenon are among the businesses that own houses on Shadow Lane.
"We have clients from around the country, so we invite customers to the games. It's also for our employees. All employees and their families are invited to every tailgate," said Lynn Jones of Robinson Metal. "Our employees love it."
The before-game-only parties allow Robinson employees and customers to get to know each other outside of work, and not have to talk business.
"It's not only the sales person, the project manager (interacting with the customer), it's also the guy that was working on the project," Jones said.
Bill Symes of Symes Realty, Suamico, said there are a couple other types of buyers interested in Lambeau houses.
"Instead of buying a yacht, he or she comes to Green Bay eight to 10 times a year. They can afford it. It's their hobby," he said.
Endries leaving legacy
The four-story Endries house has seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, and a football field-style backyard with artificial turf. Owner Robert Endries said that, in addition to using the house themselves from time to time, they make it available to nonprofits for fundraising and gatherings.
"It will be something that will stay in our family for a long, long time," said Endries, the retired CEO of Endries International in Brillion. "We thought, 'how do we leave something behind ... for generations to come and use it to serve others?"
Groups that have used the house, which was completed in time for this football season, include Notre Dame Academy, Rawhide, Green Bay Community Foundation and a Kimberly High School business class.
Other property owners just want to live near the stadium. Increasingly, they are likely to be found a few blocks away, where prices are lower, Symes said.
Buyer interest remains high
Buyers are beginning to look beyond Shadow Lane and Stadium Drive because, as Olejniczak pointed out, "God's not making any more land that touches Lombardi Avenue."
Symes has brokered two sales of $500,000 on the streets immediately surrounding Lambeau Field. A house on Thorndale Street, one block north of Shadow Lane, sold for $190,000, and one on South Ridge Road, southwest of the stadium, sold for $250,000.
"We probably have five or six active houses for sale near Lambeau right now," he said.
In all, a dozen homes are for sale within three blocks of Lambeau Field. Excluding two Shadow Lane properties listed at $999,999 and $800,000, the average listing price is $488,000, according to realtor.com.
Olejniczak said the average home sale price in Wisconsin is about $170,000.
"This is just not normal. It's created by the Packers and the new Titletown District," he said.
It's hard to know how long the heated market will last, Symes said. The housing market generally is stronger than it has been in years, and more out-of-town buyers are looking at Lambeau-area properties.
"Presumably there will always be a market. Who knows what happens if the Packers aren't as great as they have been for the last 20 years," Symes said.
"I remember talking to a woman probably four years or so ago. She thought she'd never be able to sell her house because she thought nobody would want to live near the stadium."
— Jeff Bollier, USA TODAY NETWORK- Wisconsin, contributed to this story