Football trumps concerts at Lambeau Field
GREEN BAY - Given their druthers, local businesses, to say nothing of the Green Bay Packers, would prefer football at Lambeau Field over a concert.
"These would be great if we could get them as often as we can," said Jess Miller, an owner of The Bar on Holmgren Way, after Labor Day weekend's University of Wisconsin-Louisiana State University game. "A concert is nice to have, but this is way, way better."
The preference has less to do with the quality of the entertainment than its value. Because of several factors, a football game is more profitable to the Packers and to businesses than a concert.
A Packers home game is worth about $15 million in local economic impact. The Lambeau Field College Classic was probably worth more because a higher percentage of people came to Green Bay for the game, stayed longer and spent more freely.
The Packers paid the two teams about $5 million to play at Lambeau, and sources say concert performers get a similar amount, but the team got more benefit from the football game because it was the promoter and got to keep all the revenue for taking all the risk. With a game like Saturday's, the risk was low.
It is unlikely the Packers would try to promote a concert themselves, because that's outside their expertise, so whatever profit they'd get from a concert would be limited.
Also, Lambeau Field was built for football. Holding a concert there means some seats cannot be used because of the configuration of the stage, to say nothing of the adverse effect to the field, which is a subject unto itself.
"It's 80,000 people compared to 50,000 for a concert," said Brad Toll, president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Granted, Wisconsin-LSU was a dream matchup. It had the advantage of being the first-ever major college football game in 59-year-old Lambeau Field against the perfect opponent. LSU fans travel as well as any college football team in the nation, and its fans were excited to be here and not shy about spending money. They started arriving as early as Wednesday.
"Concerts are great, but it's primarily a one-night stay versus three and four," for the UW-LSU game, Toll said.
It is arguable whether one of the teams needs always to be the Badgers. Jim Kratowicz, chief operating officer at Titletown Brewery, thinks Wisconsin would have to remain the anchor, and that probably would be the Packers' first choice as well. The team has a relationship with the university and it values Wisconsin's statewide fan base, which could be depended upon to flock to Green Bay for such a game.
There are other NCAA teams with rabid fans, but a lot of pieces have to come together to make a game happen. That, too, argues for including the Badgers because they can schedule those teams and work with the Packers to make it fit into the Lambeau calendar.
LSU set a high standard, however.
"In my mind, there is only a handful of teams that would come to Lambeau and have the same impact as LSU," said Dennis Garrity, president of Event USA tour company. "It would be similar, probably, for a team like Notre Dame. Maybe some of the other SEC teams."
Garrity began working with LSU fans two years ago to plan their weekend. He was contracted by the LSU Alumni Association to provide lodging, catering, transportation and entertainment for about 3,000 people, and he contracted with a host of local businesses to provide those services.
"Concerts are great, but we don't see the type of influx from all over the country for a concert as we do for a football game," Garrity said. "Last year, we had 47 or 48 states and 17 countries represented for Packers games."
Lambeau hosted Kenny Chesney concerts in 2011 and 2015 and each concert was sold out. The Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District revealed recently a promoter approached the Packers about another concert in 2017, though details were not revealed.
Another football game likely could not be scheduled for three or four years because colleges schedule that far in advance. But knowing how successful the right college game can be at Lambeau, it is hoped the Packers begin a series of games from then into the future, though an annual game might be too much to hope for.
In the end, the best answer is likely a combination of football games and concerts, but this weekend proved that football games need to be in the mix.
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