Packers schedule a mixed bag for bars, eateries
GREEN BAY - This year's Green Bay Packers schedule has something for everyone to love. Or hate.
Key to the 2016 lineup is five games at Lambeau Field in seven weeks, beginning Sept. 25 and ending Nov. 6. Also notable, five of the Packers' eight homes games start at 3:15 p.m. or later. One game is on a Thursday night, and one on Christmas Eve.
Police, concessions workers, bars and restaurants and others analyze each Packers schedule pretty closely to figure out their own fall and winter calendars. Day, date and time are factors affecting parts of the community differently.
On the plus side, gun deer season is Nov. 19-27. The Packers will be on the road both weekends, so no quick trips back from deer camp this year. But if you run a bar or restaurant, multiple consecutive home games might lead to falling sales. On the other hand, five late afternoon or evening games will be good for business. And so on.
"That's the first thing I looked at," Charlie Millerwise, general manager for Delaware North Sportservice, the Packers' concessions provider, said of hunting season.
Jerry Watson of Stadium View Sports Bar & Grill in Ashwaubenon said the five home games segment will put pressure on fan spending.
"It takes 'x' amount of days to reload your wallet," Watson said. "When you have to reload your wallet five times in seven weeks ... how much disposable income do you have to party? If those games were spaced out better, it would be a perfect schedule."
Kevin Burkel of Burkel's One Block Over, Green Bay, said staffing isn't a problem when home games are packed into a few weeks, but staffers could feel the crunch if fans run short of money by the latter games.
"I hear all the time from customers how expensive (going to a game) is," he said. "Your waitresses, your bartenders begin noticing a big difference in their tips. Money gets tight."
A saving grace is that two of the five are Gold Package games, which means a different set of fans, said Tim Kuehn of Margarita's Famous Mexican Food and Cantina in Ashwaubenon.
Late afternoon and night games work better for bars and restaurants because they allow more time for fans to buy food and drinks outside the stadium before the game.
"If it's Milwaukee (Gold Package) and it's a noon start, they come in and maybe get one drink. If it's a three o'clock game, a lot will come in at noon or one o'clock," Kuehn said.
The Packers were not unduly affected by holiday games this year, playing on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, as does most of the NFL. In 2011, they were the first team in NFL history to play on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day, and last year they hosted their first Thanksgiving night game since 1923. The game against the Chicago Bears included a halftime ceremony honoring Brett Favre. (Incidentally, they host the Bears on a Thursday again this year; the last of the three-game home stretch).
Burkel is no fan of Christmas weekend games, generally.
"I think the NFL ought to be ashamed of themselves. They need to get rid of games on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," he said. "They have no consideration. It ruins a lot of things for a lot of families."
Mary Katers, who coordinates concession stand volunteers for Calvary Lutheran Church in Green Bay, said the Christmas Eve game is more of an issue than back-to-back games, but the noon start helps.
"I would prefer noon on Christmas Eve so I can spend Christmas Day with family," she said.
For smaller organizations, such as the Green Bay Exchange Club, staffing will be more of a challenge, said Irene Larson, but she, too, prefers noon on Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, or 7:30 on Thanksgiving, as it was last year.
"Christmas Eve should be OK with the noon kickoff so volunteers can be home for church and Santa," she said.
Christmas weekend games are difficult for concessions staff, Millerwise said. "It's a hard ask."
Having many games close together is good, though, because groups running stands get into a rhythm. When games are more widely spaced, every week is like opening day, he said.
"The consistency of having things grouped together is helpful for us," he said.
Millerwise also is pleased by so many potentially warm-weather games, because sales tend to be better than in the cold.
The Packers have only one home weeknight game, on Oct. 20 against the Bears, which also is good.
"The weeknights are always the toughest ones for us to staff. The (concessions) group members all have day jobs," he said.
Police said the extended homestand will present no special difficulties.
"There are more than enough volunteers," said Capt. Paul Ebel, operations division captain for the Green Bay Police Department. "Staffing usually is not an issue until you get to Christmas Eve."
It is helpful that hunting season and the Packers' schedule do not intersect, he said.
Green Bay Police provide 90 to 120 personnel for the games. Police protection is reimbursed by the Packers.
Ashwaubenon Public Safety Chief Eric Dunning said every year is unique and back-to-back, or even back-to-back-to-back, games aren't a problem.
"It's still the same amount of home games every year. The things we look at (with staffing) is when you go from a Sunday game to a Thursday game," Dunning said. "And with a Thursday game, you have the regular weekday traffic out there."
As for the Packers themselves, having games closer together can be a benefit, said Jennifer Ark, director of Stadium Services. The majority of game-day workers are part time and, as with all jobs, practice makes perfect.
"When games are spaced consistently ... the staff stays fresh," she said.
Guest services employs about 200 people on game days in such areas as guest services, ushers, elevator operators and various booths. Returnees are assigned to the same duties in the same areas of the stadium as often as possible, and new hires made aware of expectations, including regarding the schedule. It was helpful the schedule this year was released before the team conducted its job fairs, Ark said.
"It can be a challenge, especially balancing that with your personal life," Ark said. "I think in most positions on game day, people want to be there. They love that game-day feeling."
Packers Fields Manager Alan Johnson likes having the majority of games in October or earlier because growing conditions are better, said team spokesman Aaron Popkey. The flip side is the schedule also includes three home games in December.
The schedule gives and the schedule takes away.