"Considered a "religious experience" by many, attending a game at Lambeau Field is to come home with a memory: the game in "December [when] it was about minus-10 and windy, with a light snow falling, and my winter hat blew off, but the woman right behind me put it right back on me in a sort of instinctual, motherly fashion;" the friendly wagers "my nephew made on the scoreboard car races with Al, who sat behind us, from the time my nephew was 3-years-old until Al died years later;" the Bears game late in the year "in one of our 4-12 seasons that was packed until the end;" and the tailgate in mid-December when "my uncle Dave invited over ... a car full of Bears fans who were just trying to stay warm ... for some brats and beer. It was a little tense at first, but once they realized that we love our team as much as they love theirs ..." In other words, Packers fans are "devoted, yet accepting of non-Packers fans." Perhaps that is because "there is a little more at stake being a part owner of the team (the Packers are the only publicly-owned team in American professional sports) than the average fan. Or because fans "not only feel the history of the stadium, but feel like a part of that history, too." But this isn't a "stuffy" group, not when "you have fans taking their shirts off in the middle of a snowstorm." Rather, it is a crowd that creates "a small-town atmosphere right inside the stadium."
9 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (20 oz.)
Beer (16 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
As if a city's worth of grilled brats and steaks weren't enough, Lambeau is home to five sit-down restaurants, many of which are in the stadium atrium. "Curly's Pub" "is probably packed on game day" and "doesn't skimp on portions," as the "Packer Pot Roast, the 40-ounce O' Line burger" or the "garlic parmesan fries" attest. "Brett Favre's Two-Minute Grill has a family recipe for jambalaya that is straight from the Gulf." And "Chili John's chili is legendary." Of course, what would a day in Wisconsin be without beer, something the Leinie Lodge offers with "lots of very cool Wisconsin beers for about the same price as regular domestics." Though not as elaborate as the atrium locations, "concession stands in the inner ring of the concourse are allocated for fund-raising for community groups;" it takes some of the sting out of the high cost."
8 out of 10
Since the stadium is "located in a town of only 100,000, the local traffic -- which is all headed toward the game -- is much lighter than in a place such as Cincinnati, where you have to fight not only game day traffic, but also large volumes of other local traffic." But, there is no escaping some traffic, since public transportation to Lambeau "doesn't exist." A "two-hour commute" from Milwaukee," Lambeau is situated near "two major highways." "Getting to Lombardi Avenue [where the stadium is] is a little tricky for first-timers," but "plenty of alternate routes will take you around the one street that is busy." Parking is "easy" "as hometown fans rent out their lawns" "for $10-$20." "You can even park for free on side streets if you don't mind a short walk." On the way out, "traffic bottlenecks a bit around the stadium but clears quickly once you get out of the lots and immediate streets." Stay off the main roads in town if you can, as they can "stay packed for miles."
4 out of 10
"You can smell the brats from miles away" at a tailgate that has "so many grills going it must be the cause of global warming." "Bratwurst is the preferred [source of] nourishment, but you'll find folks grilling just about everything" "for nearly a mile heading into the stadium." To many, the "lobster tails," "steaks" and "venison" are the only five-star cooking in Green Bay." Indeed, tailgating is "carefully planned and executed in a flawless manner." "It is not uncommon to see people setting up before 7 a.m. for a noon game," and many "have all the tools and gadgets to make tailgating easy," including "customized vans, RVs" and "no shortage of alcohol." "Everyone tries to out do each other in terms of the size of the cooking set-up, quality of food and amount of green and gold paraphernalia." "Huge barrels" are placed around "the perimeter of the parking lot to empty your coals," and "the stadium has multiple bathrooms outside solely for tailgaters." With the stadium lot regularly "full 3-4 hours before the game" (in part, some feel, because "too much of the parking lot was taken up by the new atrium" included as part of the stadium's renovation in 2003), the scene "spreads halfway into the city;" "businesses open their lots," "local churches" invite many to tailgate on their grounds and "you can literally park in someone's yard, have a cookout there and use the owner's bathroom." We can only assume the "green bloody Mary mixes in IV bags" were not used on church grounds, but it's anyone's guess as to where the "Ray Nietzsche impersonator carouses through the crowd" or where the "cheesehead bands" play. "Just imagine a block party in full swing at 9 in the morning and the whole city has shown up." It doesn't leave until 2-3 hours after the game, either.
10 out of 10
Brett Favre :: John Biever/SI
Record through Week 9
Players Worth Watching
Brett Favre (QB), Donald Driver (WR), A.J. Hawk (LB)
9 out of 10
Like the "Holy Grail of football stadiums" many claim it to be, Lambeau Field is "a modest structure that fits in with its surroundings." The "oval," "bowl-shaped" interior provides unimpeded views of the game "while ensuring "none of the seats are sky-high so as to give the impression you are watching organized ants at play." "Cold, hard, metal bench seats" that comprise all but a handful of premium locations may be "inadequate for the 10 layers of clothing everyone has to wear during winter games," "but it allows more people to see the game" and "gets you tremendously close to the action." With luxury boxes arranged in a ring at the top of the stadium, "average fans get the best seats in the house" while making "the stadium louder than ever." A major renovation of the now-50-year-old building in 2003 added a five-story tall, glass-walled atrium with so many shops and restaurants that "it's about as close to having a shopping mall attached to a stadium as you'll find in the NFL." The Packers were careful, though, to retain the "historic integrity" of the building. A new red brick fašade pairs with the green iron exterior to help "make it feel like you're in a stadium from the 1920s," and a Packers Hall of Fame invites fans "to read about Hutson, Starr, Lombardi, the Ice Bowl and get jazzed up to go watch some football." "Lambeau takes you back to a time before insane contracts, merchandising and the shallow turn some of football has taken."
9 out of 10
"Filled with "quiet," "single-family homes" where "enthusiastic messages are typically painted on white picket fences during the season," Green Bay "is as Midwest as it gets." This is "just a common small-town neighborhood" "that completely shuts down when the game starts." A few pockets of activity can be found across the street from the stadium at Kroll's West restaurant, which has "the best burger in the state" and at Brett Favre's Steakhouse, which has "the best steak I've ever had." "Mix in a few sports bars and the Don Hutson training center across the street from Lambeau, and it is a complete football community" of "die-hard Packers fans."
5 out of 10
We're not going to postulate that Packers fans have an almost unnatural love of Lambeau, but when one fan writes "if you can't make it to church on Sunday, this is the next best thing" and another describes the place as "a temple of physical and spiritual perfection ... tastefully decorated with statues and images of our gods," one can't help but wonder if Lambeau Field is more a place of myth than memories. But if that's the case, is that so wrong? With a billion-dollar football palace set to open in Dallas in a few years and half-billion-dollar stadiums already up in Philadelphia and Detroit, the NFL needs a place as understated as Lambeau. For all the glitz and money the NFL exudes nowadays, football's heart is still on that "frozen tundra," where tough guys grapple with each other while fans warm themselves on cold bleachers with hot chocolate and full-throated cheering. And that is still the essence of Lambeau. Sure, there are a few more amenities now as the economics of today's game demands ever-expanding streams of revenue. But once fans leave that glass atrium and head to their seats, the focus is football.