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Packers' home playoff game is bonus bucks
GREEN BAY - Jess Miller can explain the economic impact of a Green Bay Packers home playoff game succinctly.
"It makes the first quarter," said Miller, speaking of getting business off to a good start in the normally slow months of the year. He is an owner of Hagemeister Park, The Bar and Graystone Ale House, all of which benefit from an influx of football fans on a Packers weekend.
A game at Lambeau Field is estimated to be worth $14 million to $15 million to the Brown County economy. Lambeau will host 12 games this season, which means $180 million in game-related stimulus.
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Numbers that big can be hard to grasp, but for business owners, service industry workers, neighbors who park cars or nonprofit group volunteers, the extra income is personal.
"We have high deductibles for our medical insurance. It helps us pay this off," said Shelly Jonet, who parks cars in her yard on Briquelet Street. "Most of our parking money went to what my insurance won't pay. It's been a real plus for us this year."
The Packers qualified to host their fifth playoff game in six years by defeating the Detroit Lions on Sunday to win the NFC North. The wild-card game is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. Sunday, which restaurant and bar owners say is the perfect time.
"It's perfect for a restaurant," said Tim Kuehn, who owns Margarita's Famous Mexican Food and Cantina.
Fans will eat lunch before a late afternoon game, as opposed to a noon game, and some might hang around afterward, which they don't do after night games. Kuehn has seen a growing number of people come to Lambeau without tickets and stay to watch the game.
Margarita's business is up 5 percent this year, and it is the 13th consecutive year of growth, some of which is attributable to being within sight of Lambeau Field, he said.
Preparing for a game you're not sure is going to happen is a delicate balance, even if you're working for the Packers. Experience helps, and businesses in the Green Bay area have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. The Packers have had nine home playoff games since opening the renovated Lambeau Field in 2003.
"We've been down this road a few times," said Charlie Millerwise, general manager for Packers' concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice. "Last week we had all our orders pre-placed. If they win, ship. If they don't, don't ship."
Nonprofit groups that run the concession stands likely will receive record payments this year, Millerwise said. Delaware North paid a record $1.1 million in 2015 for 10 football games and a Kenny Chesney concert, which did not use all the seating. This year groups will be paid for 12 football games, including the Wisconsin-LSU game over Labor Day weekend.
"With the full building in the LSU game plus a playoff game, they'll have great years," Millerwise said.
Food and beverage sales at Lambeau are affected by the weather. The forecast is for sunny and 14 degrees, though the predicted temperature has been falling all week. Millerwise would prefer temperatures of 20 degrees or warmer.
"The 49ers game was much less volume than you would normally do for a regular-season game," Millerwise said. "You don't eat a lot of finger food with gloves on."
The game against the San Francisco 49ers in January 2014 had temperatures near zero.
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Food is a big part of any football game, even away from the stadium. Playoff games sell better than regular-season games, said Nina Winistorfer of Festival Foods. Stores staff up for game days, when most of the shopping traditionally happens, and provide more fruit and relish trays, Packers cookies and other game-day supplies.
"Most stores base their production on past experiences, while also looking over their personal store notes," she said.
If you live in Green Bay and work for a service-related business, you are flexible around playoff time.
"You kind of set up at the start of the year and say if we get in the playoffs, the expectation is you will be available," said Hagemeister Park's Miller. "One thing that is going to help us, there is a fair amount of colleges not back in session. We will be able to tap into that."
Among those receiving the most direct benefit are Lambeau Field neighbors, who park the bulk of the more than 20,000 cars that bring fans and workers to the game.
Jonet, who's parked cars for 25 years, said they normally host 30 cars per game, though they lose space to snow. She said it irritated her when people would walk past and say "easy money."
"When there is snow, you have to remove it. When it's cold, you're out there," she said. "You have to keep your lawns looking like a residential area. You have to change your lifestyle."
Not that she's complaining. She said you wouldn't live that close to the stadium unless you are a fan.
"We have several people that have been parking here for 10 years. It's like a big reunion," she said. "It comes to be fun."
One of the findings of an economic development study conducted for the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District during the 2009 season was that 85 percent of people attending a typical game at Lambeau Field traveled 50 miles or more. That means new money in the community. And playoff games tend to draw more of the opposing team's fans, who have access to tickets through the secondary market.
Ticket seller SeatGeek said online shopping by New York fans was trending up this week. That's okay with Hagemeister Park's Miller.
"The Giants travel well," Miller said. "New York money is good."