Day Trips & Beyond: Packers Hall of Fame
A football mecca in Wisconsin
By Gerald E. McLeod,
1:10PM, Wed. Nov. 11, 2015
Packers fans are still talking about the 1967 Green Bay victory over the Dallas Cowboys in what has been called the “Ice Bowl.” It is one of the many great moments in Packers history at the Hall of Fame Museum at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Among America’s professional sports teams, the Green Bay Packers have a unique story. It is one of the original NFL teams and the only sports franchise owned by the community instead of some loudmouthed, superrich, majority-stake owner. That gives all Packers fans in Wisconsin and beyond the right to claim a piece of the bragging rights.
How rabid are Packers fans? Green Bay is a town of around 104,000 residents. There is a waiting list for season tickets of around 116,000. The team’s home stadium, Lambeau Field, has a seating capacity of around 81,500.
Also take into consideration that in 2011, for only the fifth time in the history of the team, the club offered 269,000 shares of common stock for $250 each. In a few short weeks, more than 250,000 buyers from all 50 states snatched up all of the certificates.
And what do these new shareholders get for their money? The stock pays no dividends, can’t be sold or traded, and brings no season ticket privileges. The purchaser does get to vote on some team issues, a heartfelt invitation to the annual owners’ meeting at Lambeau Field, a stock certificate suitable for framing, and all the bragging rights they can enjoy.
Keep in mind that this is a group of diehard fans who will take a payday loan to buy season tickets. Children fight over who will inherit the rights to buy future season tickets. Many Wisconsin divorce battles have been fought over which spouse gets to keep the season ticket slot, rather than the trailer house.
Victim of Their Own Success
Despite the loyal Packers fans around the world and selling out every season since 1960 whether the team is having a winning season or not, the club was in dire financial straits as it moved into the new century. Searching for a financial savior, the club’s board of directors had to look no further than its base of fans. The club management turned Lambeau Field into a vacation destination, with stadium tours, restaurants, gift shops, and even space to hold conventions, weddings, and funerals.
Part of the expansion funded by the 2011 stock offering was the new Packers Hall of Fame that opened last summer. Lambeau Field is now a year-round pilgrimage even if fans can’t get tickets to a game or want to avoid the icebox that is Green Bay’s winters during football season. The two-level, state-of-the-art football museum takes the visitor through the history of the Green Bay Packers. Not only can you see the evolution of the team uniform from gold and blue to green and gold, but you get a history lesson in every level of the game. A cathedral of the Packers gridiron would not be complete without Vince Lombardi’s desk, and, of course, all 13 World Championship trophies.
Even though I’ve been a Packers fan most of my life – but gave up on football in general when the commercials began filling more time than the action on the field – I have to say the museum was pretty awesome. Not only does it capture the history and excitement of the team, but it tells the story of the growth of football in the national conscience.
A Touchdown Frozen in Time
And of course, the museum includes great moments in Packers history. In a small theatre among the exhibits, a video continually replays the final minutes of the 1967 NFL Championship game between Green Bay and Dallas that became known as the Ice Bowl. The winner would meet the champion of the American Football League in Super Bowl II. With the temperature on the field -15 degrees and dropping, the conditions in the stadium were so hostile that a spectator died from exposure.
By the fourth quarter of the game, Don Meredith had led the Cowboys to a 17-14 lead. With the wind chill around -70 degrees, Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr marched down the field on their last drive of the game. With 16 seconds left on the clock and a light snow falling, Starr dove across the goal line.Forty-eight years later, you can almost feel the vise grip of the cold in the grainy color film. As the chaotic final moments of the game unfold once again, everyone in the room cheers the Packers touchdown.
If You Go …
The Lambeau Field and Packers Hall of Fame are accessible from Oneida Street and Lombardi Avenue in the heart of north Green Bay. While you’re there, the stadium tours are well worth the price of admission just for the chance to walk on to the sidelines of the field. If time allows, the Trolley Tours of Green Bay offer an encompassing history of the town and the football team’s influence on what was once the “Toilet Paper Capital of the World” because of all the paper mills. Visit www.packers.com for more info.
Gerald E. McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for the past 24 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX 78704.