"Oohs and aahs" echoed outside the Lambeau Field Atrium on Friday afternoon as its newest addition was unveiled.
Green Bay Packers fans crowded around a statue that had been covered with a sheet of plastic for much of the day. More fans were perched high in the atrium's balcony, peering down at the press conference below.
"I've been around the league for a number of years," said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. "Obviously it's a great Packers tradition, but it's really a tradition in the NFL. It really personifies the connection between the fans and the players."
The statue is a tribute to the Lambeau Leap, initiated by former Packers safety LeRoy Butler. Many Packers players jump into the end zone stands after scoring a touchdown in a tradition that affectionately garnered the name Lambeau Leap. Butler was also present for the unveiling ceremony.
"I used to dance a lot, and when I would score, or the rare times I intercepted, I would dance," Butler said. "One particular time there was a guy who, in his eyes, just said 'hug me.' As I was running, I threw the ball down, and I looked at the guy and said 'I'm gonna jump.'"
The statue was uncovered by Murphy and Butler, drawing cheers from the audience.
The Lambeau Leap statue features a green padded wall and four life-size bronze human figurines in cheering positions. The statue includes a section in the middle where fans can do the leap themselves and pose for a photo. The new addition, located just outside the entrance to the new Packers Pro Shop on the north end of the Atrium, joins two other statues — former coaches Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau — on the newly redesigned Harlan Plaza.
"We thought, 'This is awesome when you can do it,'" Butler said of the Lambeau Leap. "How many times can you touch a player without getting thrown out of the game?"
The statue was created by a team of 15 sculptors from the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highwood, Ill. The company also designed the Harlan Plaza statues and the figures seen on downtown Green Bay's Heritage Trail. Creation of the Lambeau Leap statue began in February after the sculpture company was approached by the Packers, said project manager Sean Bell.
"They wanted to commemorate, of course, the Lambeau Leap, after the initial 2-D approval of the design, then we moved into the 3-D design of the sculpture," Bell said. "We (built) up a steel skeleton of the sculpture, which we reinforced with wood to bulk out the figures. Over that we place the clay which is where you get the final detailing of the figures."
Molds are then created and eventually the bronze is welded and cast together, said Bell. The sculpture took about three hours to install earlier this week.
"To me personally it really signifies the importance of the fans to this team," Bell said. "There are memorials to players all over the country but this is the first one that's really dedicated to the fans themselves."
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