Lambeau Field

Lambeau Field kept the Packers in Green Bay.

Home field of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, Lambeau opened in 1957 as City Stadium, replacing the original City Stadium at East High School as the Packers home venue.  Known as New City Stadium for its first eight seasons, it was renamed in August 1965 in honor of Packers founder, player and long-time head coach, Curly Lambeau, who died two months earlier.  The first venue built exclusively for football, Lambeau is the oldest continually-operating NFL stadium.  Now in its 61th season, the legendary cathedral surpassed the Chicago Bears’ run at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970.  Only the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have longer active home-field tenures in American professional sports.

Nicknamed “The Frozen Tundra” by NFL Films writer Steve Sabol, Lambeau Field is the greatest stadium in National Football League history.  It has provided the Packers a decided home field advantage, as the Green-and-Gold are 227-116-5 in regular season games and 17-5 in playoff contests at Lambeau through the 2016 season.  The vaunted arena has witnessed some of the most exciting games ever played, including the Ice Bowl – the 1967 NFL title game between the Pack and Dallas Cowboys played in minus-13 degree temperatures, Vince Lombardi’s first NFL title in 1961, and the Packers 2015 rally from an eight-point second-half deficit to defeat Dallas in their first playoff visit to Lambeau since the Ice Bowl.

Located at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, Lambeau Field sits on the block bounded by Oneida Street to the east, Stadium Drive and Valley View Road to the south, and Ridge Road to the west.  The playing field has a conventional north – south alignment and rests 640 feet above sea level.  The playing surface — one of the finest in the NFL — is a blend of Kentucky Bluegrass reinforced with Desso GrassMaster, a hybrid grass combined with artificial fibers.  GrassMaster is a breakthrough material, allowing the natural grassroots to entwine with the polypropylene fibers, resulting in a stronger and healthier root zone.

Green Bay is the unofficial epicenter of pro football.  A meat packing and paper mill town of just over 105,000 residents, Green Bay is situated at the mouth of the Fox River, 120 miles north of Milwaukee and 80 miles east of Lake Michigan.  Known as TitleTown USA, Green Bay is not only the NFL’s smallest city, it is the most miniscule in any major professional American sport.  Founded in 1919, the Packers played in antiquated facilities for their first three decades.  By the mid-1950s, the NFL sent a message to Green Bay: build a new stadium or lose the Packers.  In April 1956, a referendum was passed for a $ 960,000 bond, half of which the Packers would pay, to build a new stadium in Green Bay.

The third-oldest franchise in the NFL, the Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned team in major league professional sports.  The franchise has 13 league championships, the most in NFL history, and have made 32 playoff appearances.  Packer fans are among the most rabid in all of sports.  Sold out since 1960 [326 consecutive regular season games, not including replacement games, at the start of the 2017 season], the waiting list for Packers season tickets contains more than 130,000 names.

When it opened, New City Stadium shared a parking lot with a farm.  Built in seven months at a cost of $960,000 [more than $8.6 million today], the glistening new venue was dedicated September 29, 1957, with a 21-17 victory over the archrival Chicago Bears.  With nine of the 11 other NFL teams playing in MLB ballparks and all of the venues in the league built before 1931, New City Stadium was innovative and modern.  The 32,154-seat venue was filled to capacity that day and opened to rave reviews, prompting NFL commissioner Bert Bell to proclaim “the dedication of this stadium today is the greatest thing that has ever happened in professional football.”

In 1962, the Packers moved their offices from downtown Green Bay to Lambeau Field.  That same year, they added 4,000 new seats to bring capacity to more than 42,000.  Since then, Lambeau has undergone several renovations.  The most recent came in 2014, when seats were added in the south end zone to bring capacity to 81,441, making Lambeau the second-largest stadium in the NFL.  The Packers have done a remarkable job of modernizing the venerable facility without erasing its history.  Rising out of a neighborhood, Lambeau is unobtrusive, with its red-brick veneer, original bowl shape and fan-friendly site lines making it the best venue in pro football.

The lease for Lambeau Field is held jointly between the city of Green Bay and the Packers, and allows for one non-football event per month between February and June.  The venerable stadium has hosted concerts, including Survivor, Kenny Chesney with Jason Aldean, and a performance by Billy Joel, who is an official shareholder of the Packers.  Lambeau hosted the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, a game between the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State, in February 2006.  A decade later, the iconic facility played host to a college football game, when the unranked Wisconsin Badgers surprised number five LSU, 16-14, in the season opener.  Local high school teams played at Lambeau until the late 1970s, and the stadium now hosts the annual Packers shareholders meeting.

Attending a Packers game at Lambeau is magical.  For decades, the all-volunteer Lumberjack Band was an integral part of the experience, until the buttoned-down NFL replaced the marching band with recorded music in the 1990s.  Following a Pack touchdown, Todd Rundgren’s Bang The Drum All Day booms over the loudspeakers.  Beer Barrel Polka [Roll Out The Barrel] is played in the fourth quarter, and I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas blares after a Packer win.

The Lambeau Leap is one of the Packers’ greatest traditions.  It was invented by safety Leroy Butler, who scored after a Reggie White fumble recovery and lateral against the Raiders on a frigid day in December 1993.  Following a touchdown, Packer players jump into the end zone stands, a celebration popularized by wide receiver Robert Brooks and coined by ABC’s Al Michaels during a Monday Night game in 1996.  When the NFL [which often stands for “No Fun League”] banned excessive celebrations in 2000, the Lambeau Leap was grandfathered in to the new rules, allowing it to continue.  The NFL Network named the Leap the second-greatest touchdown celebration of all time.  In 2014, a statue was unveiled outside Lambeau Field commemorating the Leap, allowing visitors to pose for pictures doing their own version of Green Bay’s finest celebration.

The finest pro football venue in America continues to get better.  The Lambeau Field Atrium is a five-story, 376,00 square foot space within the stadium that houses a team store, the 1919 Kitchen & Tap restaurant, and the Packers Hall of Fame.  The dual-level Hall of Fame includes 159 Packer legends, trophies from the team’s 13 world championships – including four Lombardi Super Bowl trophies – and the hall’s most popular exhibit: a replica of Vince Lombardi’s office.  Harlan Plaza is located In front of the atrium and includes statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.  The TitleTown District, a 34-acre destination area immediately west of the stadium, opened in September 2017 and a tailgate village located in the east parking lot provides fans with live music, food, beverages and game action broadcast on 35 plasma screens located throughout the facility.

The Packers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  Kickoff is scheduled for noon, local time.