Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
Anyone who has driven by Lambeau Field on Lombardi Ave. recently realizes the area in front of the Miller Lite Gate of the Atrium is dramatically different. The key objectives of the Atrium renovation are to increase the size of the Packers Pro Shop, locate the entire Pro Shop on one floor and to make the store more easily accessible for fans throughout the year, as well as on gameday. In order to accomplish these objectives, we decided to place the Pro Shop in a space on the lower level of the Atrium (in the area of the former Hall of Fame) twice the size of the current store. Since the store will be on the lower level, guests will be able to park to the north or east of the Atrium and enter the Pro Shop directly.
Changes to the area north of the Miller Lite Gate were obviously needed to relocate the Pro Shop to the lower level and make the store accessible from the north. The biggest change required the lowering and reconfiguring of the Harlan Plaza. The new plaza is 20 feet lower and farther west than in the past. Many truckloads (41,000 cubic yards) of dirt were removed from the area in order to make the changes. Fans will still be able to enter the Atrium through the Miller Lite Gate. Parking for people entering the Miller Lite Gate will be north and west of the Atrium by the Bellin Health Gate. There will be a new terrace in front of Miller Lite Gate (on top of the new Pro Shop), with outdoor seating for the new restaurant at the east end of the terrace.
The previous Harlan Plaza served as a special tribute to Bob Harlan, as well as to Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. The statues of Curly and Vince were relocated to a spot near Lombardi Ave. during the construction and were just recently placed in their new, permanent locations. In order to ensure the new Harlan Plaza is the equivalent (if not an improvement) of the old plaza, we hired Hoerr Schaudt landscape architects from Chicago, who worked on Millennium Park in Chicago. In addition to the relocated statues (which will be located in a football shaped area near majestic steps leading up to the ticket office), the new, reconfigured Harlan Plaza will include a ramp to allow fans to move from the lower level to the elevated area west of the Atrium entrance and over 2,000 shrubs and trees, including 13 Whitespire Birch trees.
I’m excited for our fans to see the reconfigured Harlan Plaza. The highlight of the area will continue to be the statues of Curly and Vince. Since the statues will now be at street level, they should be much more prominent from Lombardi Avenue. Also, the statues are strategically placed so that it will be easier for fans to take pictures of the statues with Lambeau Field in the background. The plaza is designed for ease of use by pedestrians and should be a great place for fans to congregate. We think the new Harlan Plaza will also continue to be a great tribute to Bob Harlan and the history and tradition of the Packers, as well as a must see for all Packers fans traveling to Green Bay.
Now, for your questions:
Mike from Seguin, TX
I visited the Pro Shop last summer. Because I am now on crutches, getting access was a real struggle. Any improvements are welcome.
Very timely point, Mike. As I mentioned in the column above, one of the key objectives of the Atrium renovation is to make the Pro Shop more accessible. Since the Pro Shop will be on the lower level, you can be dropped off at one of three entrances (two on the north side and one on the east). Also, if you have a handicapped sticker, you will be able to park in handicapped parking adjacent to the Pro Shop. Moreover, since the store is all on one floor, it will be easier for you to move throughout the entire store. You will also be able to take an elevator or an escalator to the Atrium floor.
Ken from Middleton, WI
Mr. Murphy, what do you think of the draft going to eight rounds (keep the comp picks)?
Interesting question, Ken. The draft is a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players, so any changes in the draft would have to be negotiated with the NFLPA. Generally, the players would prefer fewer rounds so that more players would have the freedom to choose where they wanted to play. At the end of the draft, a player is typically better off not being drafted. He can often receive a higher signing bonus if several teams are interested in signing him, in addition to being able to choose the team he thinks will be the best fit for his talents. I realize this is a little counterintuitive, since most players desperately want to be drafted. I know that I was very disappointed when I was not drafted. However, as I look back on it, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Most of the teams that were interested in me wanted to switch me from safety to linebacker. If a team had drafted me in the last round as a linebacker, I know I would have been hard pressed to make it in the NFL. The draft has had seven rounds since 1994. There were 12 rounds from 1977 to 1992, and as many as 17 rounds in previous years.
Noah from Omro, WI
Hey Mark, I really appreciate all the work you do to make the Packers the best organization in the NFL. You and the rest of the front office make it a wonderful time to be a Packers fan. I was wondering what the process is that you go through when evaluating a player such as Colt Lyerla, who possesses considerable talent but has struggled off the field?
Great question, Noah. There has been much written about Colt Lyerla in the past month. We take great pride in the amount of research our scouts and personnel staff do on our draft choices and undrafted free agents. They research a player’s background and talk to coaches and others in the school’s athletic department about the player. When we make a pick or sign a player out of college, we want to make an informed decision and strive to know as much as possible about the player. Colt is obviously a very talented football player. He had a difficult upbringing, though, and encountered many challenges at the University of Oregon. As Mike McCarthy said, we’re hopeful the culture of our locker room is strong and positive enough to help Colt.
John from Downers Grove, IL
As a lifetime Packers fan, a former collegiate player and loving father with two very athletic impressionable boys, I would ask you, "If you were in my shoes, would you encourage your own sons to play football and, if so, would you apply a starting age parameter to their participation?" I personally struggle with this decision based on knowledge we have today versus my childhood. I also struggle with being a hypocrite since I actively played from a young age into college.
Thanks, John. This is a question many parents across the country are now asking themselves. I absolutely believe you should encourage your sons to play football. First, with all the focus and attention on the safety of the game in recent years, I don’t think the game has ever been safer. Coaches and all others involved in youth football are much more sensitive to safety issues. Also, I think USA Football, through their ‘Heads Up Football’ program, has done a great job teaching coaches and players proper techniques for tackling and blocking, and making the game as safe as possible. In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have now passed legislation regarding return-to-play guidelines for concussions. While there’s an injury risk in football (and all sports), I believe the rewards associated with participation in football far outweigh the risks. There is no better game than football when it comes to teaching young children important life lessons about teamwork, discipline, dedication, dealing with adversity and overcoming fear. With regard to the proper age to start football, there is no perfect age to start; it is a personal, family decision. My wife, Laurie, and I didn’t let our son, Brian, play tackle football until sixth grade. This gave him time to mature physically before starting full-contact tackle football, and it didn’t put him too far behind the other players. He went on to play successfully at both the high school and college level (Amherst College). If your boys are eager to play football, it may make sense to have them start with flag football at a younger age and then transition to tackle football later.
Robert from Wigan, England, UK
Was just an interesting thing I heard the other day from an American Football program on the TV. It said The Packers have had every game sold out since the 1960s. So I was wondering if it was true. It would be great if it was.
Yes, Robert, fortunately it is true. We have the best fan base in the NFL, and this statistic (along with our waiting list of 110,000) is proof of that. We have sold out every home game since 1960, and on a season ticket basis since 1961. As an organization, though, we realize we can’t take this support for granted, and we strive every year to provide a competitive team and a great fan experience.