The Lambeau Field Experience
Any football fan—whether they enjoy the NFL product or not—has heard of Lambeau Field. Home of the Green Bay Packers since 1957, it has achieved landmark status in NFL lore and the sports world at large. Though it has gone through its share of renovations like any older sports venue through the years, it still keeps a sense of history and classicism from a bygone era of professional sports, with high school-style bleacher seating in its main seating level of the lower bowl and fans of the team and the game that are there for one simple reason: to watch the game unfold.
I was fortunate enough to attend a game at Lambeau on Sept. 26, a Thursday night match-up between the home Packers and the visiting Philadelphia Eagles. I am a lifelong Eagles fan, but with that I have an intense desire to travel and take in sports for not just the game on the field but the experience of the venues in which those games occur. When the team schedule came out in the spring and I saw the Eagles were going to Green Bay, it was easily the highlight of potential options of their away games to attend. Football stadiums don’t have the same mystical allure of say, baseball ballparks, but Lambeau is an exception. I believed that even from seeing snippets of the stadium in TV background shots or old pictures before my visit, and believe it even more so now. Lambeau Field is a football relic, an inanimate object yet still a real-life, functioning piece of art.
One of the most fascinating features isn’t even within the stadium, but simply where it is located in the small town of Green Bay. Imagine driving through Vacaville on Interstate 80 during your commute or on a day-trip getaway between Sacramento and San Francisco and boom—a full-size NFL stadium pops out at you after clearing smaller-sized buildings in the foreground. That’s what Lambeau is like. This big, behemoth of a structure located in the middle of just another neighborhood of houses like any other. Facing down a street that runs parallel to the stadium, you can look to your left and see it towering over you, and look to your right to see average Joe mowing the lawn on a nice, sunny day. There are few places like it left in professional sports, and not one like it left in the NFL.
Additionally, the pre-game vibe is unique in its own right. Residents in the neighborhood rent out their houses for game day weekends through Airbnb, some simply offer the space in their garage driveway or even their lawn as a parking space for game attendees in exchange for a small fee. Stadium lots—while larger than you might imagine—still hover in the $40 range. Unlike many NFL stadiums that would charge similar or in many cases now even higher prices, go down a block or two and the price will gradually decrease without simultaneously pitting you an annoyingly far distance from the stadium. Between bar lots and resident street curb parking (also—no excessive “NO STADIUM PARKING” reminders along the residential streets, they want you to come!), there are plenty of places to choose. A mini commercial district has sprouted up in the immediate space surrounding the stadium, with countless options of areas to enjoy a pre-game drink or meal, or even tailgate.
Inside the stadium, the fan vibe is still very much that of the “real” fan there to watch a football game and enjoy the game-day atmosphere with fellow fanatics. The “corporate crowd”—if it exists—stays isolated in suites and boxes above and away from the bleachers and the season ticket holders and out-of-town visitors that fill out the stadium’s main bowl. The fans are incredibly friendly, sharing stories of the local towns they trek from to get to the stadium and curious of the origins of their visitors to the Green Bay area while being very welcoming. This mindset and positive attitude applies to the nearby businesses and social gathering spots outside the stadium as well. The Packers team store is the size of full-sized first floor of a mall department store—it’s HUGE.
The craziest part is you can hardly tell and appreciate its size due to the mass of people swarming every nook and cranny between merchandise shelves and racks. Additionally, the Lambeau Field “Atrium,” a more recent addition to the structure, is a gathering point that feels as though you’ve entered an ancient tourist attraction in Europe with a modern welcome center before getting that authentic experience. It’s well worth checking out before making your way to the actual stadium concourse right next door.
All in all, Lambeau Field is an unforgettable place and I’m so grateful I had the chance to go. There aren’t many football stadiums I have an intense desire to visit, but Lambeau was certainly tops on that short list and it did not in any way disappoint. It certainly didn’t hurt that the game was competitive throughout and ended in a nail-biting 34-27 Eagles victory over the home team, but between the fans giving great hospitality to visitors and receiving such masses of them so well and the vibe of the stadium and city on game day, it’s a must do on the list of experiences and destinations to journey to Lambeau Field for a Green Bay Packers game if you get the chance.