An inside look at the latest Lambeau Field
I was on vacation last week, and my wife, Cheryl, and I decided to kick off this new NFL season with a trip to Lambeau Field. No, we didn't have tickets to Sunday's game, when the Packers thumped the visiting Washington Redskins. Instead, we spent an enjoyable day Tuesday getting an inside look at this storied stadium and Packer franchise. Cheryl and I toured the stadium and Packer Hall of Fame a couple of decades ago, before both underwent major renovations and improvements. A fresh visit was overdue.
I had to laugh Sunday morning when an ESPN announcer suggested the rain falling in Green Bay might turn Lambeau Field into a muddy mess. I knew that was overly dramatic. That's because when Cheryl and I toured Lambeau, we learned about the special turf that blends real and artificial grass in a mix designed to prevent turf disintegration. In fact, despite the historic notion of the “Frozen Tundra”—a term that became legendary after that fabled 1967 NFL championship game between Green Bay and Dallas—a system of piping under the field will forever prevent the turf from again being “frozen” during a game.
Our tour guide, Jack, rambled through historic facts about Lambeau and the Packer franchise with nearly the speed of an auctioneer (or Randall Cobb). At times I wished he'd slow down so his listeners had more time to absorb all the stories. Still, he mixed humor into his talk, making it enjoyable. For example, at the start of the tour, he mentioned that visitors have come from 125 countries and all 49 “recognized” states. He quickly asked: Is anyone here from Minnesota? Those assembled—none from Wisconsin's neighbor to the west—chuckled. One group was from Virginia, and another came from Rockford (better known as Bear country.).
While we were seated in the largest stadium suite, Jack told us he attended that 1967 “Ice Bowl.” He then asked if we knew what happened four months ago. “I finally thawed out,” he said, earning more laughs.
You don't get to go into the Packer locker room on the tour. The league apparently prohibits that. You also don't get to trot around the field. You do, however, get to jog down the same ramp into the stadium as the team uses. With piped in audio of a cheering crowd, the experience sends goose bumps down your spine. We then stayed on the sidelines, and Jack and his tour partner snapped photos of each of us behind the goal posts.
This isn't the Lambeau Field that Vince Lombardi would remember. The stadium opened in 1957 and was first called City Stadium. Most often, it was referred to as New City Stadium because it replaced the team's first City Stadium. It was renamed Lambeau Field in 1965, a year after Packer founder, player and longtime head coach Curly Lambeau died. It held about 30,000 fans initially. Through repeated additions, it now has a capacity of 80,750, slightly more than Camp Randall in Madison and third largest in the NFL.
Oh, fans seated in this latest addition, Jack told us, will have toasty toes because the concrete has a heating system embedded into it.
After the hour-long tour, Cheryl and I bought a few items at the massive Packer Pro Shop. (Your credit cards have unlimited balances while you shop there, Jack joked). We ate lunch at Curly's Pub, a restaurant almost as long as a football field and right inside the impressive stadium complex. Then it was on to the Hall of Fame for a trip down memory lane, a chance for me to do a “Lambeau Leap” onto a replica wall and our first glance at all four of the team's Lombardi trophies, standing side by side.
This gratifying day got us ready for some football. Fortunately, this latest Packer club rebounded Sunday from its season-opening loss.
If you're a Packer fan who has never been inside Lambeau Field, this is a day trip you might want to consider. More information, go to packers.com.