We are high above ground and just below the signature “G” that looms 40 feet tall and 60 feet wide. No point in Green Bay is loftier, and what feels simply gusty during summer would freeze the bone in January.
That spells exhilaration, if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, because little beats this sky-high view at Lambeau Field.
A Champions or Legendary stadium tour will get you a peek of this South Loft rooftop deck, which is only accessible to 225 club seat holders on game days. It is part of the unofficial penthouse at Lambeau’s south end zone.
On a clear day, you can see downtown Green Bay, three miles northeast. “You won’t mistake it for the Chicago skyline – I can guarantee you that,” quips tour guide Mike Berken.
He is a retired Pulaski High School math teacher and baseball coach who attended his first Packers game at age 10. Two years later, he was at the 1967 Ice Bowl championship. That’s the kind of enthusiastic guy who leads Lambeau tours.
When you love something, you can’t get enough of it. I am reminded of this as another NFL season begins, and this time it’s a yearlong party as the Packers celebrate their centennial season.
Only four in our stadium tour group of 22 live in Wisconsin, a hint that Packer fever is about more than team loyalty. The NFL’s smallest city and only not-for-profit, publicly owned team is a destination for anybody who cheers for the underdogs of life.
Tour takeaways? Here are 10 fast facts, thanks to Berken and other sources.
The Green Bay Packers sold 1,000 shares of $5 stock in 1923, to keep the team solvent.
Packer team colors were blue and gold until the late 1950s, when blue was swapped out for green because home turf is GREEN Bay.
Lambeau Field’s capacity is 81,441. Green Bay’s population is 104,057.
If padding was added to stadium seats, capacity would drop around 10,000.
Each yard marker inside of Lambeau lines up with the comparable yard line on the football field.
No cheering is allowed in the 250-seat press box, where each seat is assigned.
At least 600 events per year at Lambeau have nothing to do with football.
On Harlan Plaza at the stadium are 13 birch trees, one for each team championship. There is room for more.
Curly Lambeau got severe tonsillitis during a Christmas break from college, was bedridden two months and almost died.
Vince Lombardi was a master motivator but had no head coaching experience before taking the Green Bay job. “The Packers were lousy back then,” Berken observes. “He was the only one to say ‘yes’.”
Lambeau Field tours do not happen on home game days. The cost starts at $15 for a one-hour tour. The top ticket of $41 includes a two-hour tour and Packers Hall of Fame admission.
On some Saturdays, a former player leads a one-hour Alumni Tour of the stadium. This ticket is $59. Tour leaders include LeRoy Butler, Bubba Franks, Nick Barnett and Chester Marcol. packers.com
For other hot spots for football fans, check out greenbay.com.
New noshing options at Lambeau Field include maple-bacon-wrapped hot dogs, brats in a blanket, brats with jalapeno cheddar and bacon jam, chips and guacamole, seven-layer dip with chorizo, tater tots with bacon.
The first birthday party for the Packers’ Titletown District is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15. That means free music, yoga and other activities. titletown.com
Thirty miles southwest of Lambeau Field, in downtown Appleton, is another treat for football enthusiasts. “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” is the only Wisconsin stop for a traveling exhibit from Canton, Ohio.
It takes up around 60 percent of exhibit space at the History Museum at the Castle, a 1923 Tudor Revival structure that was built as a Masonic temple. To accommodate “Gridiron Glory,” new and enlarged loading doors were cut into the historic building.
A “hometown tribute” portion of the exhibit changes whenever the show moves to a new location, but Packer fans have plenty of additional reasons to gawk. “You can’t tell the history of pro football without including the Packers,” observes Dustin Mack, museum curator.
Expect a mix of history, trivia, game highlights, technology changes and you-are-there opportunities. Examples of the latter: Put on a helmet and hear a coach call the next play. Compare the size of your hand or thigh to NFL superstars. Play referee and use instant replays, from multiple camera angles, to make a call as the clock ticks.
What else? The many “Gridiron Glory” artifacts include these 10 gems.
The first trophy awarded for a pro football game.
The heating coil that failed during the 1967 Ice Bowl in Green Bay.
The square kicking shoe worn by Tom Dempsey, born without toes on his right foot.
A pylon from the 1997 Super Bowl, signed by Desmond Howard, the MVP.
A Jim Taylor jersey.
A “Mean Joe” Green helmet.
Turf from the 1972 “Immaculate Reception” game.
The onesie-style jersey that Marcus Allen preferred.
A jacket owned by Brian Piccolo, best known for the 1971 “Brian’s Song” movie.
One of two Lombardi trophies in Appleton this year (the other, a replica, is at Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse, five blocks away).
“Gridiron Glory” stays in Appleton until Jan. 6, 2019. Admission is $15. myhistorymuseum.org
Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge John Des Jardins talks about the 1919 Green Bay Packers at 1 p.m. Sept. 22 at the museum. His grandfather was on the team.