Titletown, U.S.A.

Make the leap to Lambeau, Green Bay

Canton, Ohio, may be the birthplace of professional football, but Green Bay, Wisconsin, is definitely its spiritual home. Many of the NFL’s iconic moments and legends are Green Bay Packer iconic moments and legends. The city celebrates its team like no other. If you have the chance to follow the Saints later this month for their tilt against the Packers, GO! Even if you can’t make it up for the game, put Green Bay on your sports bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

With a population just north of 105,000, about 250,000 in the metro area and 600,000 in its television market, Green Bay is by far the smallest home city in top-level American professional sports; but it is one of the sporting world’s most respected. Founded in 1919. By Earl “Curly” Lambeau, the team has won a record 13 NFL Championships, including four Super Bowls, and is unique as the only publicly owned team in any of the country’s major professional sports leagues, which makes it the only franchise to release its financial balance sheet every year.

“We know we are very blessed to have an NFL franchise,” said Jim Schmitt, Green Bay’s mayor since 2003. “There are cities much larger than us that don’t have the recognition nationally or internationally that we have, and it’s because of the Green Bay Packers. We know that. We never take it for granted.”

Homages to the Packers are all over Green Bay, from the Packers Heritage Trail Downtown, which covers the team’s history from the Lambeau through Lombardi eras, to the Oneida Nation Walk of Legends, a display of 24 monuments celebrating Packers history and legends, just outside of Lambeau Field.

Last year, Forbes estimated the Packers’ market value at $2.35 billion, with revenues of $391 million and an operating income of $101 million. However, financial success wasn’t always in the Packers’ grasp.

“The fact that this team has survived in this city is the most remarkable in sports,” said Cliff Christl, the Packers’ official historian.
The team had to sell stock thrice to stay solvent, first in 1923, then 1935, and 1950.

In 2003, the Packers opened the $295 million Atrium at Lambeau Field to solidify finances by making the stadium a year-round attraction rather than only used 10 times a year on game days. The Atrium, with a terrazzo floor looks like a football field, is home to the Packers Hall of Fame, ProShop, 1919 brewpub, and fast-food options. With it, the Packers went from among the bottom of league in revenue to the top 10.

This fall, the Packers will unveil the Titletown District, a $125 million, 45-acre mixed-use tract across the street from Lambeau. Phase one, anchored by Lodge Kohler, a AAA-rated four-diamond hotel and spa, Hinterland Brewery & Restaurant, a snow tubing hill, ice skating rink, and athletic field is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving.

Lodge Kohler features 144 rooms, including 10 suites, the 6,000 square-foot Kohler Waters Spa, and Taverne in the Sky, with its panoramic view of Lambeau Field and a sky terrace outside with couches, club chairs, and fire pits to keep warm. A unique feature of Lodge Kohler’s suites is Weber propane grills and concierge service that will provide your choice of meats for cooking right outside your hotel room in the thick of tailgating action.

Hinterland owner Bill Tressler slyly grins when someone tells him he’s going to be able to mint money on game day. He relocated to the Titletown District from downtown Green Bay after his brewery reached max production and the Packers shared their idea for the development with him. Hinterland now brews 25 kinds of beer in 15,000 31-gallon barrels each year in a 24,000 square-foot facility split between restaurant and brewery. While Tressler says his heart is in the brewery, the move has meant a greater focus on cuisine. He’s combining some traditional Wisconsin plates with items from the Pacific Rim.

He’s anticipating up to 2,000 customers to come inside on game days and many more in the beer garden outside. With 18-hour days preparing for football season, Tressler said the hardest part of the move has been hiring enough workers to meet expected demand.

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
Categories: History