Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy as well as vice president of administration and general counsel Jason Wied talked about some general concepts being discussed both for a renovation of Lambeau Field’s south end zone and for development of the area in and around the stadium, ideas that are only in the preliminary stages but are intended to keep the franchise economically competitive in the NFL in the future.
“We want to build on the success of our renovation in 2003 with a goal towards increasing the number of visitors that come to the area,” Murphy said in his address to more than 8,300 shareholders inside a sunny Lambeau. “We do anticipate this will take place in a number of phases.”
One phase would be a renovation of the south end zone. Shareholders were shown a couple of potential sketches of what that area – the only “open” area left above the stadium bowl following the ’03 renovation – could look like. It may include as many as five “levels” of construction featuring additional stadium seating, standing-room-only space, and/or potential “rooftop” seating similar to what the Boston Red Sox added above Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” in left field a few years ago.
“We think putting people on the roof of this stadium and in these really unique locations and giving them standing room only will make this the most unique NFL experience you could possibly have,” Wied told the shareholders.
Murphy later added in a press conference with local media that the renovation could add as many as 4,000 additional seats plus the standing room, bringing Lambeau Field’s capacity – currently 72,928 – to just under 80,000.
Over the past several months, the Packers have been hosting various focus groups of season-ticket holders to get their input and reaction to the ideas being discussed. No ideas have been finalized and no timetable or cost estimates have been firmly established yet, but Murphy felt there’s been enough discussion thus far that it was appropriate to give the shareholders a peek at some of the developing ideas.
Murphy also noted that a renovated south end zone would create a “wall of sound” of Green Bay fans, adding to the team’s home-field advantage.
“We want to make sure we do something, number one, that our fans want,” Murphy said. “Our target audience is really our (season-ticket) waiting list. We’ve got 83,000 people on the waiting list, and we want to provide something that would really be a positive for them.
“Also, we want to make sure whatever we do is consistent with this great stadium. We want to build on this tremendous legacy.”
As far as outside the stadium, Murphy and Wied also talked about what’s being preliminarily called the “Titletown Development District,” a potential business district encompassing several blocks around and near the stadium that could be developed further in a collaborative effort with local municipal and business leaders.
The Packers own several properties adjacent to the stadium that would be part of any development, and the organization already has been working on potential concepts with local political leaders.
Wied touched on a list of possibilities, including hospitality, retail, entertainment and health/wellness ventures, an exhibition hall and a youth sports complex, any or all of which would be undertaken with the goal of bringing 7 million to 8 million visitors to the Lambeau Field area per year, more than double the 2.6 million to 2.8 million that visit annually now.
“We think we can build something that’s world class,” Wied said. “We think we can build something that people will enjoy from all over the Midwest and around the world.
“The impact this visitation would have on the organization is very apparent, … and also the impact on the entire community would be positive.”
How soon any of these development projects, whether inside or outside the stadium, would move forward isn’t certain. With the NFL’s owners and players currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, the economic landscape for the immediate future of the league isn’t known, though Murphy said one of the goals is to reach an agreement that provides incentives for teams to make the kinds of future investments the Packers are talking about.
“It’s (about) bringing economic development and visitation to the area,” Murphy told reporters. “I think it will be beneficial to the community, create jobs at a time when the economy is really struggling. It could be a shot in the arm for people. I think it would really build on and tie into the original renovation in 2003.”