So – here we are! It’s opening day 2017 and I am really excited for the start of the new season.
I have lots of great trips planned for this year, but the highlight of them all may be today – opening day a in “Titletown USA” – Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lambeau field. Cheese Heads. Such a great way to start the year!
In Green Bay, football is more than just a sport, it’s a religion. The streets bear names such as Lombardi and Holmgren, businesses are painted green and yellow, pretty much every bar, restaurant, grocery store, gas station, etc. have multiple displays of the Packers logo or pictures of the players.
This city breathes football much more so than any other NFL host city. Unlike cities like Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. where there are so many other things that make up the cities composition and personality – in Green Bay Wisconsin – it is ALL about the Packers! And this is felt more strongly on opening day than at any other point of the regular season. While summers in Wisconsin are beautiful, this is just a way for the locals in this part of the state to pass their time while they countdown to the start of football season.
The city of Green Bay itself, although comparatively small for an NFL host (approx. 105,000 population) has a lot to offer. A nice downtown with shops and restaurants, some great local brewhouses/restaurants (including Titletown Brewing located on Donald Driver Way and Copper State) and, pretty much every couple hundred yards or so, something related to the Packers. Downtown features something called the Packers Heritage Trail (kind of like Boston’s freedom trail – except for Packers stuff) which takes you by 30 locations throughout the town of Green Bay that played a major role in the creation of the team.
On Packer game days – prices for pretty much everything magically skyrocket.
There are not a lot of good hotels in Green Bay. I was able to book a room at the Microtel Inn & Suites which normally goes for $85 a night but ran me $225 a night- But of f course, this included a ‘wonderful’ complimentary breakfast of elastic bagels, and thawed out Sara Lee Muffins.
Around 1:30, I headed over to the stadium on foot. It was about a 3 mile walk from my hotel dodging some I-46 traffic along the way. First stop was the Tundra Tailgate Zone. This is a tented entertainment zone that features live music, food , booze and giveaways. There was a virtual sea of folks outside the stadium and lots of activity. In front of the stadium are statues of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau. The Lambeau Atrium has plenty of additional shops and the Packers Hall of Fame.
I made my way through security into the concourse. For an older stadium it was clean and roomy – easy to get around and find everything. The vast majority of the seating bowl are aluminum benches. Folks who come here on a regular basis bring their own seat cushions and seat backs from home, others rent them for $6. This is real old school stuff. I am sure those benches get pretty cold in November and December and folks without cushions freeze their asses off.
Something else old school are the team’s cheerleaders. They look like they came through a time warp from 1962 with their traditional ‘just above the knee’ skirts and megaphones.
Today’s game was a matchup of what many folks feel may be an NFC championship showdown. It was a defensive standoff for the first half with the teams heading into the locker room at halftime with Seattle up 3-0
In the 3rd quarter Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels’ strip sacked Russell Wilson deep in Seattle territory which set up Ty Montgomery’s 6-yard touchdown run on the next play. Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson with a 32 yard TD pass later in the quarter to pad the lead en route to a Packer 17-9 win.
Food wise – it’s mainly traditional stadium food (burgers, chicken wings , hot dogs) with some nice local Wisconsin offerings (cheese curds, brats) thrown in. There was plenty of one of my favorite beers – Leinenkugel’s.
The fan following of the Pack in Green Bay (both in the stadium and in the city) is without parallel. Every game since 1961 has been sold out. The fans actually own the majority shares of the team itself.
Long drive to Minneapolis in the morning.
Fans – A – Packer fans worship their team, and no better time or place to show their love than opening day at Lambeau. They were all friendly, fun and full of energy.
Features – B – The plaza , the atrium, the vintage bench seats and cheerleaders and all of the displays to tribute the former greats.
Location – B – Walkable from downtown, but a pretty healthy walk. Lots going on before and after games right by the stadium.
Food – B – Leinenkugels and Wisconsin Brats – What goes better with fall football than that?
Game – B – A little slow at first but two great teams slugging it out with the Pack coming out on top.
Overall Experience – A – Similar to baseball at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park – seeing a game at this place is a football lovers bucket list item. Just come early in the season.