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Historic Lambeau Field

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This week's installment of the small market roundtable focuses on stadiums. Sean Yullie over at Pride of Detroit focused on Ford Field. It was pointed out in the comments that despite the new field, the recent losing seasons have taken its toll on the bottom line and Detroit is near the bottom in revenue. Although it might be obvious, a new stadium alone is not a cure-all.

Another point raised in the comments is that although these stadiums keep our teams competitive, the bottom line is it makes the rich team owners even richer. I couldn't agree more, but I also understand that your perspective may change when it's your team that will suffer without the new stadium. However with the salary cap, it isn't clear that an NFL team suffers on the field because of a poor stadium and primarily the losing is a result of bad team management. San Francisco hasn't been hurt because they play in old Candlestick Park, but that the team wasted 1st round picks on guys like CB Mike Rumph. The Packers opened renovated Lambeau Field in 2003, but they have hardly spent like Daniel Snyder in free agency over the past few offseasons.

Ford Field opened in 2002 and cost $430 million to build while the Packers spent $290 million not for a new stadium, but for a remodel. Would they have been better off building a whole new stadium?

What did the taxpayers in Brown County get for their $290 million in extra sales taxes paid? After mentioning the bronze statutes and new scoreboards the next thing mentioned is:

The Packers' football facilities -- a vital element in attracting players in today's ultra-competitive NFL -- also were enhanced greatly by the stadium's redevelopment, debuting in time for the 2002 season. The centerpiece of these quarters is a breathtaking, 64- by 120-foot, football-shaped locker room with 64 stately, wooden lockers. Another 25 lockers can be found in an adjoining, auxiliary locker room, to be utilized during training camp.

The new football facilities also feature a much larger training room with all of the latest therapy pools as well as a permanent X-ray machine, a new weight room, individual position meeting rooms with theatre-style seating, a 150-plus seat team auditorium, a basketball court with a parquet floor, two racquetball courts, a team dining room and a players' lounge.

Umm...so far that doesn't do anything for the fans. A few paragraphs later after mentioning the great new lights and that the corporate offices were moved to the stadium is:
The centerpiece of the redeveloped stadium is the Lambeau Field Atrium, a 366,000-square-foot, five-plus-story structure on the east side. Miller Brewing Company, through a sponsorship deal announced in July 2002 that extends through the 2012 NFL season, is a partner with the Packers in the development of the Atrium and is the sponsor of the area's main entrance gate. Welcoming fans is a glass wall, facing Lombardi Avenue, measuring over 180 feet long and 80 feet high.
Although this does directly benefit the fans, it also directly adds more revenue to the team as they generate revenue from the stadium all year long through the Atrium. Many of these new stadiums feel like an update on a concrete bunker so it was probably the best decision to spend less, get the updates behind the scenes and upfront with the Atrium, and retain the history of Lambeau Field.

At the time it really surprised me that there was fierce opposition to the sales tax and the that the vote for the new sales tax was so tight. How could the people in Brown County oppose something for the Packers?

The $1 million-plus campaign did not go as smoothly as the Packers had expected. Team executives and their advisers were surprised by the amount of opposition to their plan. They argued that it was one of the largest private contributions ever by a team and its fans toward a stadium plan in NFL history, and that it was an investment in the community.

The campaign also surprised national observers, who assumed that a community known for its support for the team would translate into support for a sales tax that would have cost the average resident, at least in the beginning, $46 a year or $120 a year for the average family.

For me this was something filed under lessons learned. First, voters hate paying more taxes, understandably. Second, voters weren't able to pick and choose what they thought was necessary and what was too much. They were forced to either accept all or none. Third, what the hell was going to happen if it didn't pass? Were the Packers going to move? Since the worst case scenario (relocation) seemed highly unlikely, it made perfect sense that voters would oppose paying more to the Packers when the benefits were more intangible (financially competitive team) than tangible (an extra $46 to $120 out of pocket). In the end the new sales tax financing the renovations won, but it is interesting that only 53% of residents supported a new tax that benefited a corporation owned largely by the community while in 1996, 68% of voters in Wayne County (Detroit) supported a public subsidized stadium for a corporation owned by the heirs of Henry Ford.