For Green Bay Packer fans, a tour of Lambeau Field

About an hour’s drive from those quaint Door County

bed-and-breakfasts you promised you’d go to and those antique shops

you promised not to complain about is something that makes it all

bearable: Lambeau Field, the football stadium where the Green Bay

Packers play.

Towering above the smallest community to host a professional

sports team in the nation, the home of the Packers is one of the

most storied stadiums in all of sports and a place that’s every bit

as cherished by football fans as places like Fenway Park are by

baseball fans.

The Packers may only play here about a dozen times a season, but

fans can visit practically every day of the year, for a tour that

costs just $11. It offers a peek behind the curtain where so much

of professional football’s history has been written. In the last 10

years, more than a million people have taken the tour – all of them

coming away with insider knowledge guaranteed to fascinate football

fans and bore everyone else to death.

The tour starts in the atrium, where a guide points outside to

statues of the team’s founder and first coach, Curly Lambeau, along

with the team’s most famous coach, Vince Lombardi, and gives a

brief history. Did you know the team’s original colors were not

green and gold but blue and gold, which, it turns out, are the

colors of Notre Dame, the school Lambeau attended? Or that the

Packers name comes from the packing company Lambeau worked for and

talked into paying for the team’s first uniforms?

It’s also a chance to joke that what the statue of Lambeau is

pointing to is the stadium’s massive gift shop. The store houses

what must be the largest collection in existence of foam hats

shaped like orange cheese in honor of the fans’ nickname –

cheeseheads. The store also sells anything and everything one could

possibly imagine with a Packers logo, as well as stuff you couldn’t

imagine, like the toaster that turns out toast branded with a

Packers `G’ logo on it.

The atrium is where you start to get a sense of how important

the Packers are to the fans. Sixty weddings are held here a year –

including one in which the bride almost hit those taking the tour

with her tossed bouquet – along with school proms.

As the tour moves to a luxury box, visitors are told not for the

first or last time that the ”frozen tundra” that ESPN’s Chris

Berman keeps referring to when he talks about Lambeau – meaning the

field itself – actually froze just one lousy time.

Unfortunately for the Packers, it froze in what is still

Lambeau’s most famous game and perhaps the most famous game in the

history of the league: the 1967 NFL Championship game between the

Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, forever known simply as the Ice

Bowl.

Turns out there was a heating system under the field but it

broke before the game. That system has been replaced with a new one

– here comes one of those facts that will fascinate true believers

and bore the rest – that includes 43 miles of hoses coursing with

antifreeze and hot water running underneath the field. Not only

that, but mixed in with the grass are 20 million small synthetic

fibers that, for those scoring at home, go 8 inches under the

surface of the field and a half-inch above it.

And get this: While the rest of Wisconsin is buried under a

blanket of snow, the heating and lighting systems are so effective

at keeping the place warm that the grounds crew is mowing the lawn

into December and even January.

From the skyboxes the tour moves into the bowels of the stadium.

The guide points to the locker room but tells you that the NFL

prohibits fans from going inside active locker rooms.

Disappointing, but it also adds to the mystery of the place.

The tour takes visitors through a tunnel to the stadium. To give

visitors a sense of what it’s like for the team, the sounds of

cheering fans pours out of some speakers. It sounds hokey, but it

adds to the thrill of seeing Lambeau as the players do when they

walk onto the field.

Like the locker room, the field itself is off-limits. And for

those on the tour considering doing the ”Lambeau Leap” into the

stands as the players do after a touchdown, ”Don’t even think

about it,” the guide says.

Football history is literally all around you here, starting with

the names of the 22 Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The

Chicago Bears have more, the guide says, but quickly points to the

list of 13 years that the Packers have been league champions – a

list that is longer than that of any other team, Bears

included.

The tour puts you just a few feet from the end zone that

quarterback Bart Starr dove into to win the famed ”Ice Bowl.”

If that doesn’t make you want to pay a few more bucks to visit

the Packers’ Hall of Fame at Lambeau or pick up that Packers

toaster, nothing will.

If You Go…

LAMBEAU FIELD TOUR: Green Bay, Wis.,

http://www.packers.com/lambeau-field/stadium-tours.html. Adults,

$11; discounts for seniors, military, students, children. Tours are

offered most days throughout the year, with times and dates listed

on the website.