If the most recent Packers Pro Shop made its 1990s-era predecessor look like a shoe box, the new Pro Shop makes the recent one look like a closet. It's 21,500 square feet of glamour, kitsch and cuteness offered with big-city style.
"This store could stand on its own whether in Chicago or Dallas or San Francisco. It would be special wherever it's located," said Kate Hogan, Packers director of retail operations. "We wanted to create something really special for Northeastern Wisconsin and Packers fans."
Northeastern Wisconsin and Packers fans go their first look at the new Pro Shop after a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. Thursday, the culmination of 15 months of work to remake the northern and eastern faces of Lambeau Field and much of the Atrium's interior public areas.
Packers employees were the new Pro Shop's first customers on Wednesday afternoon, giving staff a chance for a shakedown period.
"It looks like something that shouldn't be in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's really high end," said Lacey Scheunemann, who works in catalog sales for the team and was checking out the store's many nooks and crannies. "It's got so much more merchandise, so much more to choose from. It's going to be a draw for the community."
The shop has Packers gear for tiny quarterbacks, linebackers and cheerleaders; furniture and fridges for those Packers basements; a wall of hats — 36 linear feet of headgear — jerseys, jerseys and jerseys, and everywhere photos of Packers history.
The shop is more than twice as large as the one it replaced. It is angular, open, bathed in natural light and visually stimulating.
"It was one of our challenges, not making a square space," said Jim Hartwig of 555 International, a Chicago design firm, one of whose members was named Carolyn Halles (pronounced Hallis, but no matter).
"We designed pockets of intimacy within it, with layers upon layers of visual elements. There's always another focal point."
Another challenge was to include throughout iconic elements — that ubiquitous Packers "G," many historic photographs and even corrugated green metal reminiscent of pre-2003 Lambeau Field.
"We wanted it to be truly Green Bay, but not intensely in your face," Hartwig said.
New elements include non-Packers items, such as Lucy, Kuhl and Cutter & Buck merchandise, as well as a Nike section that includes Tiger Woods golf apparel, golf balls, bags and more.
The Pro Shop could be ever-changing. Most of its fixtures are on wheels, including extra checkout stations for big game-day crowds.
The shop is classy, it's visually exciting and full of surprises, but keep in mind its purpose, which is to make money for the Packers so they can afford to put a competitive football team on the field a few dozen yards away. Team officials said they expect the shop to make $1 million or $2 million a year more than before.
Hogan said she thinks they should be able to double game-day sales, in part because more fans will be able to get access. The game-day shop on the far side of the stadium will remain in use as well.
"They'll spend more time here, I really think so," said Hogan, who's been with the Packers 21 years and worked in all three Pro Shops. "They'll spend more time on Saturday and Monday."
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said the final result exceeded their hopes.
"If not for the great support from fans, we wouldn't be able to build a store like this," he said.
— rryman@greenbaypress gazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG or on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette.
PACKERS PRO SHOP OPENING
When: 9 a.m. Thursday
Where: Lambeau Field, 1265 Lomardi Ave., Green Bay
What: Grand opening of the expanded, 20,000-square foot Pro Shop. Includes prize drawings, giveaways and other special activities.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, with special hours during training camp, holidays and for special events.