Despite a season without fans at Lambeau, Green Bay Packers came through pandemic year in good financial shape
GREEN BAY - You could say the Green Bay Packers and the NFL successfully navigated their way through the pandemic year.
The Packers on Friday reported a real-world loss of $38.8 million for the fiscal year that included a regular season without fans in Lambeau Field's stands.
Notably, the organization didn't take money from its corporate reserve fund, a prospect that wasn't at all certain when the year began. It was the team's first operating loss since before the 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field.
On paper, the team recorded $60.7 million in net income for the fiscal year that ended March 31, a result of outstanding performance by its investments, but that's largely a fictitious number because it includes $120 million in unrealized income. In other words, it exists on paper, but is subject to the whims of the stock market.
"It was a very unique year with the pandemic, and the pandemic had a significant impact on our finances, but, that said, the Packers remain in a very strong position financially, and we feel we have the resources to continue to have success both on and off the field," Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said Friday during the team's annual financial report.
The NFL's smallest-market team, and the only one that makes its financial results public, the Packers reported $371.1 million in total revenue, down from a record $506.9 million in the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 fiscal year. The decrease was entirely from local revenue — mostly gameday revenue— which fell from $210.9 million to $61.8 million.
The Packers received no ticket revenue from games last year. Ticket revenue from two playoff games that some fans were allowed to attend went to the NFL. In-person Pro Shop revenue was down, because of no fans on game days, but online sales exceeded goals.
"Our (Atrium) event business, the Pro Shop store, the restaurant and the hall of fame obviously were affected by the lack of customers, but really the lion's share of that was gameday related," said Paul Baniel, vice president of finance and administration.
National revenue, which primarily consists of media contracts, increased from $296 million to $309.2 million.
Because the NFL played its entire 2020 schedule, it collected all the money it was due from its television contracts. That income, shared equally between the NFL's 32 teams, more than covered the Packers' player expenses, which were $219.9 million, $6.6 million less than the previous year.
The NFL Players Association, recognizing the challenges presented by the pandemic, agreed to contract changes, mostly in benefits, that decreased player expenses.
"The loss of fans for our regular season games led to a significant and very sharp decrease in our ... local revenues," Murphy said. "We were able to reduce some of our operating expenses, which really helped minimize some of the impact of the loss of revenue."
As has so often been the case in the team's history, fans did help it get through the year.
When the scope of the pandemic became clear before last season, fans were given the option of getting season ticket refunds or having the Packers hold the money for this year's tickets. Enough opted to have the money held that it helped the team have cash on hand to keep it from dipping into the corporate reserve.
The Packers did not disclose how much money that was, but it was enough for them to make note of it and thank their season ticket holders.
"That really helped us," Murphy said. "Give them credit."
And the corporate reserve fund, valued at $491 million at the end of the fiscal year, provided security enough for the Packers to maintain a line of credit with their lenders to provide the remainder of the cash they needed.
"We used our credit line this year to help us through the rough times," Baniel said. "Without a credit line, we would have been going into that investment fund."
The Green Bay Packers Foundation's endowment was $48.6 million at the end of the fiscal year but is now more than $50 million. The team said its charitable impact last year was more than $9 million.
"We've made some very sound financial decisions. That really allowed us to provide community support, particularly focused on COVID relief during the pandemic, as well as social justice efforts in the community," Murphy said.
The team also cut expenses by slowing some projects, such as concourse renovations, but construction continued apace in the Titletown District, where townhouses, an office building and an apartment building are under way west of Lambeau Field. The district has yet to make an appreciable impact on financial results, mostly because it is still under development.
With conditions back to something approaching normal, the Packers anticipate expanding player facilities at Lambeau Field, with construction starting in February. Murphy said plans are being finalized.
"It's something we think really sets us up for the long term," Murphy said.
Concourse renovations will resume and plans are to replace the stadium's video scoreboards, which are near the end of their planned life.
The Packers did not raise ticket prices this year, but Murphy said he anticipates a return to small annual increases. The Packers have said their goal is to remain in the middle of the league on ticket prices.
The Packers reported profit from operations for 2019-2020 of $70.3 million.
Total revenue and profit from operations, rather than net income, are the more significant number in Packers' finances because all money, whether profit or not, goes into team operations or the community. Packers stock does not pay dividends.
Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/