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Lambeau Field

Lambeau Field is an outdoor football stadium in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers. Opened in 1957 as City Stadium, it replaced the original City Stadium as the Packers' home field. For that reason, it was also informally known as New City Stadium until 1965, when it was renamed for Packers founder, player, and long-time head coach, Curly Lambeau, who had died earlier in the year.

Lambeau Field was the first stadium built for the exclusive use of an NFL team, and is the longest continuously-occupied stadium in the NFL.

The stadium's street address is 1265 Lombardi Avenue. It sits on a block bounded by Lombardi Avenue (north); Oneida Street (east); Stadium Drive and Valley View Road (south); and Ridge Road (west). The playing field at the stadium sits at an elevation of 640 feet (195 m) above sea level.

History

Construction 1955

In 1955, the other NFL owners had threatened to force the franchise to move to Milwaukee if the stadium conditions in Green Bay were not improved. In 1956, Green Bay voters responded by approving (70.3%) a bond issue to finance the new stadium. The original cost in 1957 was $960,000 (paid off in 1978) and its seating capacity was 32,500.

The new stadium would be the first modern stadium built specifically for an NFL franchise. At that time, all the other NFL teams were playing either in facilities shared with Major League Baseball teams, or in other pre-existing shared facilities.

The site, bordered on three sides by the village of Ashwaubenon, was selected because it had a natural slope, ideal for creating the bowl shape. The outdoor practice fields (Clarke Hinkle Field and Ray Nitschke Field) and Don Hutson Center are all in Ashwaubenon, as was The Packers Hall of Fame until 2003.

The new City Stadium was officially opened on September 29, 1957, as the Packers beat the Bears 21-17. In a ceremony before the game, the stadium was dedicated by Vice President Richard Nixon.

Although they now had a modern facility in Green Bay, the Packers continued their tradition (1934-94) of playing two or three regular-season games a year at County Stadium in Milwaukee, 120 miles to the south. Beginning in 1995, regular season games were no longer scheduled in Milwaukee and Lambeau Field became their only home field. Former Milwaukee ticket holders receive tickets to a preseason game and games 2 and 5 of the regular season home schedule, in what is referred to as the "Gold package." Green Bay season ticket holders receive tickets to the remaining home games as part of their "Green package."

Expansion, 1961–95

Demand for tickets at the new stadium easily outstripped supply. In 1961, four years after it opened, the stadium's capacity was increased to 38,669.

Since then, the Packers have been regularly increasing the seating capacity. The bowl was increased to 42,327 in 1963, to 50,852 in 1965 and to 56,263 in 1970, when the stadium was fully enclosed for the first time as the various stands were joined into one continuous oval around the field.

Construction of 72 private boxes in 1985 increased the seating capacity to 56,926, and a 1990 addition of 36 additional boxes and 1,920 theatre-style club seats brought the number to 59,543. In 1995, a $4.7-million project put 90 more private boxes in the previously open north end zone, for the first time giving the stadium the feel of a complete bowl and increasing capacity to 60,890.

2003 renovation

By the end of the 1990s, the Packers believed that they needed to update the facility to remain financially competitive in the NFL. Rather than build a new stadium, Chairman/CEO Bob Harlan and President/COO John Jones unveiled a plan to renovate Lambeau Field in January 2000. The renovations were to be partially funded by the team, and partially by a 0.5% sales tax in Brown County. Their plan won voter approval in September 2000, and construction began early the following year.

This massive $295 million reconstruction was designed to update the facilities and add more premium and suite seating, while preserving the seating bowl and keeping the storied natural grass playing field of the "frozen tundra." The renovation project was completed in 2003, bringing the current capacity to 72,928.

Lambeau Field has been occupied by the Packers longer than any other NFL team has occupied its own current stadium. In 2006, the Packers completed their 50th year at Lambeau, tying the all-time NFL occupancy record set by the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field (1921–70) (While Soldier Field in Chicago has been the site of a football stadium longer, it was not the home of the Bears until 1971). In 2007, the Packers began their NFL-record 51st season at the stadium.

Although the capacity has more than doubled since Lambeau Field was opened, demand for tickets remains high - season tickets have been sold out since 1960, and more than 74,000 names remain on the waiting list.

During the 2007 season, Lambeau Field was voted the number one NFL stadium in game-day atmosphere and fan experience by a Sports Illustrated online poll.

Name and nickname

New City Stadium

The original name of Lambeau Field lasted through the 1964 season. Officially "City Stadium," the name "New City Stadium" was used informally to distinguish the stadium from its predecessor, which had become the home of the Green Bay East High School football team.

Lambeau Field

The new City Stadium was renamed "Lambeau Field" by the city on September 11, 1965, following the death of Packers founder Curly Lambeau earlier that year.

Besides founding the team in 1919, Lambeau played for the Packers in their early seasons and was the team's coach through 1949. During his tenure, he led the Packers to six NFL championships, second only to Chicago Bears coach George Halas, who led his team to eight titles.

Corporate naming rights

On November 7, 2000, two months after Brown County voters approved a sales tax to fund Lambeau Field's renovation, a second referendum was presented to the same Brown County voters. This referendum asked whether or not naming rights to the renovated stadium should be sold in order to retire earlier the 0.5% sales tax created to cover construction costs. The referendum passed 53% to 47%, the exact percentage by which voters approved the sales tax.

After the vote passed, the Packers entered talks with the City of Green Bay, which owns the stadium, to further explore the options. The City and team agreed to sell the rights if a price of $100 million could be realized, although no buyer has been found.

The Packers, although agreeing to be bound by the will of the voters, have consistently stressed that they would prefer Lambeau Field keep its traditional name, honoring the club's founder.

The Packers have sold naming rights to the five entrance gates. From the north going clockwise, they are: Miller Brewing (atrium gate), the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin (east gate facing Oneida Street), Mills Fleet Farm stores (southwest gate), Associated Bank (west gate and private box entrance), and Verizon (northwest gate). Miller Brewing is also a sponsor of the atrium, and has a section in one end zone called the "Miller Lite End Zone," giving away tickets in that area with various beer promotions.

"The Frozen Tundra"

The stadium's nickname was spawned by the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The game was played in temperatures of -13°F (-25°C) with sharp winds, and has come to be known as the "Ice Bowl." The name supposedly came from a highlight film of the game that included in its narration the phrase, "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field," spoken by "the voice of God," the late John Facenda. However, Steve Sabol of NFL Films has denied that Facenda used the phrase; it is believed that an imitation of Facenda by ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman popularized the phrase. An underground electric heating system had been installed the previous summer but when it was needed the most it failed to operate properly. The field had been covered overnight with the heater on but when the cover was removed in the sub-zero cold the moisture atop the grass flash-froze.

The underground heating and drainage system was redone in 1997. After the 2006 season, the surface, heating, and drainage system was replaced. The new grass surface has synthetic fibers woven into the sod. Even the new video boards, installed in 2004, have been influenced by the field's nickname, being called "Tundra Vision".

Postseason

Lambeau Field has represented a significant postseason home-field advantage for the Packers. From its opening in 1957 until January 2003, when they fell 27–7 to the Atlanta Falcons, the Packers had never lost a postseason game at Lambeau Field. However, the Packers hosted just one postseason game (in the ad-hoc round-of-16 in the strike-shortened 1982 season) during a lean stretch of 27 years between the Ice Bowl of 1967 and a wild-card game in December 1994. Although the Packers have lost three of their last five playoff games at Lambeau Field, the overall postseason record is an impressive 12–3. The stadium has hosted three NFL championship games in 1961, 1965 and 1967 (the "Ice Bowl"). Up until the 2007 NFC Championship game, no place kicker on the opposing team had ever made a field goal beyond 40 yards. Lawrence Tynes of the New York Giants finally became the first in 50 years to do so.

Playoff games at Lambeau Field typically feature the cold Wisconsin winters. The most famous example is the Ice Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 31, 1967 for the NFL Championship. Still the coldest game in NFL history, at kickoff the temperature was with a wind chill of and it got even colder as the game went on. Despite the conditions, the game sold out and actual attendance was high. More recently, in the 1997 NFL playoffs both the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers struggled to adapt to the cold, muddy conditions, and temperatures during the 2007 NFC Championship Game reached as low as , with a wind chill of .

Traditions

The "Lambeau Leap"

Many Packer players jump into the end zone stands in a celebration affectionately known as the "Lambeau Leap." The Lambeau Leap was invented by safety LeRoy Butler, who scored after a Reggie White fumble recovery and lateral against the L.A. Raiders in December 1993. It was later popularized by wide receiver Robert Brooks.

Today, the Lambeau Leap is a popular touchdown celebration done by players on many different teams.

Occasionally, a visiting player will attempt a Lambeau Leap, only to be denied by Packers fans. This happened to then-Minnesota Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot when he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. During the 2007 NFC Championship game, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs faked a Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown, angering many Green Bay faithful in the stands.

Stadium music

Originally, music at Lambeau Field was provided by the Packers' Lumberjack Band. The live band has been replaced by recorded music.

Whenever the Packers score a touchdown, the Todd Rundgren hit "Bang the Drum All Day" is played. This tradition began in 1995 and has since been copied by a few other teams around the NFL.

"Go! You Packers! Go!," the team's fight song, is played at Lambeau Field immediately following the Packers' player introductions and after each extra point scored by the Packers.

The "Go Pack Go" jingle is usually played when the team is on defense or during the start of a drive on offense. A song built around this jingle is "Go Pack Go!" by The 6 Packers.

The House of Pain hit "Jump Around" is often played during one time-out at Lambeau, resulting in widespread jumping around by the crowd. This tradition began due to the popularity of the same song/crowd-participation tradition at University of Wisconsin football games.

Other events

Since the renovation, the stadium has been used for other purposes, including snowmobile racing. The 2005 snowmobile racing event took place over the turf, but even with proper snow cover, it ruined the playing field. In 2004, the event was held in the parking lot due to a lack of snow.

Football

When built, Lambeau Field was also slated to be used by Green Bay's public high schools, as old City Stadium had been. However, a key 1962 game between the Packers and Detroit Lions was affected when two high schools played in the rain the preceding Friday, damaging the field. After that, Lombardi asked the schools to avoid using Lambeau. Since then, few non-NFL football games have been played there. In 1970, Green Bay's Premontre High School (the alma mater of Lombardi's son, Vince Jr.) hosted (and won) the state private school football championship. In 1982 and 1983, St. Norbert College hosted Fordham University (Lombardi's alma mater) in benefit games to fight cancer.

Shortly after the 2006 Wisconsin–Ohio State hockey game (see below), newspaper reports said the Wisconsin football team might be interested in moving a non-conference road game to Lambeau Field. The Packers have also shown interest in this possibility, though such a game is unlikely to occur until sometime after the 2008 season.

Hockey

Following the success of the "Cold War" collegiate hockey game held in 2001 at Michigan State's Spartan Stadium, hockey teams from Wisconsin and Ohio State met in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic, an outdoor game played on a temporary rink inside the stadium on February 11, 2006. The Badgers defeated the Buckeyes 4–2 before a capacity crowd of 40,890. There were some problems as the ice began to crack during play, but overall it was a success, ending with the Badgers doing the Lambeau Leap following their victory.

Soccer

The city stadium authority and the Packers have floated the idea of hosting the United States men's national soccer team at the stadium.

Concerts

Since the renovation, no concerts have been played at Lambeau. The last concert to be held at the stadium was Survivor, in 1985 to a crowd of 13,000. The main reasons for this are concerns of the team relating to potential damage of the playing surface and also more desirable venues in Wisconsin, notably Miller Park in Milwaukee and Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Seating capacity

  • 1957 32,500
  • 1961 38,669
  • 1963 42,327

Lambeau Field:

  • 1965 50,852
  • 1970 56,263
  • 1985 56,926
  • 1990 59,543
  • 1995 60,890
  • 2001 65,290
  • 2002 72,928

The Packers have one of the longest waiting lists for season tickets in professional sports with about 74,000 people as of May 3, 2007. Lambeau has been sold out on a season-ticket basis since 1960 (259 consecutive games at the start of 2007, including playoffs).

External links

References

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