Green Bay prepares for playoff game at Lambeau

Dan Egan
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Amanda Furman, second left, of Appleton, waits with her children, all dressed in the Packers gear, for a stadium tour in the Lambeau Field atrium. Her children are, from left, Violet, age 3, Annah (CQ), age 6, and Drew, age 9.   - PACKFANS - Green Bay Packers fans and employees at Laumeau Field, as well as the city of Green Bay, suddenly finds itself preparing for a playoff game, on Monday, January 2, 2016  in what had looked to be a lost season. The Green Bay Packers will face the New York Giants in a wild-card playoff game on Sunday, January 8, 2017 at Lambeau Field. - Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -

Green Bay — Brad Toll's mind was on more than football as he cheered for a Green Bay Packers victory Sunday night.

He was thinking about the millions of dollars that were at play — and it wasn’t money flowing through bookies' ledgers.

The president of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau says that when Richard Rodgers recovered the Detroit Lions' onside kick with just seconds left to secure the win and a home playoff game Sunday against the New York Giants, it triggered an economic wave that will come crashing into Brown County in the next week.

"The estimated impact is $14 million," said Toll, who, maybe only because he was standing with the Packers stadium in the background, bears a surprising resemblance the stadium's namesake.

Advance ripples of that economic wave arrived first thing Monday morning, with fans streaming into the Packers Pro Shop and snatching up all the NFC North Division champions baseball hats by noon.

More division championship paraphernalia is expected to arrive in the next couple of days, but the real money will roll in when fans begin streaming into town later in the week, all needing food, drink, a place to stay and perhaps, especially if they're from New York, some emergency game-day clothing, like hats, boots and something little warmer than a thin black leather jacket.

A high of six degrees is predicted later in the week, and game-day temperatures are expected to peak at just under 20 degrees.

Of course, other NFL cities hosting playoff games will reap a similar happy windfall. But the impact on Green Bay is unique, given the size of the city (population 104,057), the seating capacity at Lambeau Field (81,435, including standing-room), and the number of hotel rooms available in Brown County (about 4,300).

And that $14 million is just the dollars that can be counted. Toll said it's impossible to put a price on the value an extra nationally broadcast game brings to the community. Not just images broadcast inside the Lambeau bowl but also from the video snapshots network crews often produce in the days before the game to give viewers mini profiles of northeastern Wisconsin. These can be profoundly beneficial from a marketing perspective, even if images at this time of year might be of fishermen sitting on buckets on the frozen Fox River or traffic rumbling down a Lombardi Ave. so salt-stained it's white as chalk. It doesn't matter. It all puts Green Bay in people's minds, and may lure them into swinging through the city.

"That is advertising we can't afford, especially on a national stage," Toll said.

Inside Lambeau Field Monday, employees buzzed about prepping the field and stocking concessions for a game that wasn’t even on the schedule 12 hours earlier. That didn't mean they had not prepared. Lambeau commissary manager Mike Kane said last week he put in a provisional order for 238 kegs of beer to bolster what's already on stock. He said he didn't have to call the distributor or push some sort of button to tell the trucks to roll Monday morning. He said the distributor knew to fill the order the second Kane did.

"Watching the game," Kane said, "that's their button."

Fields manager Allen Johnson was almost as stoic as Mike McCarthy when asked if he planned to do anything special to get his famous acre in shape for Sunday.

“We treat every game the same,” Johnson said as his part-time crew, called in specially Monday morning, unfurled a green tarp to cover the field’s freshly painted lines.

And the atrium at Lambeau was bustling with fans Monday morning in numbers that would have been unlikely had the Packers lost.

North Carolina's Jim Ullmer, a De Pere native, confessed Monday he probably would not have stopped by the Packers Pro Shop for a second time on his holiday trip had the Packers not been riding a playoff wave. He was browsing with a winning fan's smile, not just for himself but for the entire community.

Ullmer, who grew up in Brown County in the late 1950s and early '60s, said he's well familiar with how brutal it can feel the day after a Packers season ends shy of the playoffs. And he also knows how warm and fuzzy it can feel, even in the dead of winter, if the Packers are the only team in the NFL to end the year with a victory.

Of course, it was too early Monday to talk about Super Bowls. The important thing is that the Packers extend this season as long as possible, because when — OK, if — the Packers do lose for the last time this season, said Ullmer, "that's when it gets cold."

Ullmer, in fact, said he would happily have endured another week in Wisconsin — if he didn’t have to get back down to his North Carolina classroom.

There would have been a spot waiting for him inside Lambeau. The team reported late Monday afternoon that about 3,000 playoff tickets remained available for Sunday’s game.

Single-game tickets bought directly from the Packers range from $118 to $145 for the wild-card round. They are sold online only at Ticketmaster.

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