With President and CEO Mark Murphy doing the honors, the Green Bay Packers cut the ribbon on Lambeau Field’s South End on a sizzling Thursday afternoon.
Speaking before the ribbon-cutting and Meet Your Seat event, Murphy said the expansion took 3,800 names off the season-ticket waiting list, with the average wait on the list of about 30 years. Murphy joked that the team inadvertently sent letters to the lucky fans on April 1. He then spent a couple days fielding calls from fans wondering if the letter was just a cruel April Fools joke.
The south end zone expansion added more than 7,000 seats to Lambeau Field. With that end of the stadium enclosed and filled mostly with fans using their outdoor voices, the team’s home-field advantage should be enhanced.
“Last year, when there were no fans in the end zone (during construction), players commented to me about how much louder it was already,” Murphy said. “We’re excited about the ‘Wall of Sound.’”
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With capacity up to 80,750, the stadium trails only New York and Washington.
“It’s pretty impressive for by far the smallest community in the NFL to have the third-largest stadium,” Murphy said. “We’re fully confident we’ll fill those seats.”
The project had a major impact on the local economy — and will continue to do so. As Murphy outlined on Tuesday in discussing the team’s record profits, the project created more than 2,000 jobs and $70 million in wages going to area workers. According to Murphy, 92 percent of the work was done by Wisconsin companies, including 70 percent from Northeast Wisconsin and 40 percent from Brown County.
Moreover, with 7,000 additional fans for two preseason games and eight regular-season games, that’s an additional 70,000 fans in the stadium.
“Having 70,000 people here is roughly the equivalent of another regular-season home game,” Murphy said of the economic impact to the area. “That’s a $12 million impact on an annual basis just for the south end zone.”
The $146 million project was funded without a penny from taxpayers. The $64 million from the recent stock sale went directly into the project, plus the team borrowed $58 million from the league’s new loan program.
Outside of some tentative footsteps from fans who are afraid of heights and the sheer steepness of the addition, fans were thrilled with how the addition looked from the outside as well as the inside. Rather than metal bleachers, fans will have a chair and cup holder. The South Loft, a viewing platform in front of the scoreboard, has room for 500 fans. It’s the highest point in Brown County, with fans able to watch the game as well as see the Tower Drive Bridge and the Bay of Green Bay.
“The challenge was doing it in a way were you didn’t take away from what makes Lambeau special — the history, the tradition — and I think we’ve been able to do it. To me, it looks like it’s been there,” Murphy said, adding later: “We look forward to many memorable moments as well as more championships in this iconic stadium,” Murphy said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.