Casual fans know it as Lambeau Field, the home of the National Football League Green Bay Packers. However, NFL-enthusiasts affectionately call it “The Frozen Tundra.” Opened in 1957 and originally called City Stadium, the field was named after Packers founder, player, and long-time head coach Curly Lambeau.
It was built to replace the Packers original home known as City Stadium at East High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
It is the oldest continuously operated NFL stadium. Although Soldiers Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, is older, the Bears were not tenants there until 1971 after they left Wrigley Field, which was the Bears original home starting in 1921.
Graphic via stadiumsofprofootball
The Packers had played at City Field since their inception in 1925. But by the 1950s it was considered insufficient as a professional sports venue.
The dilapidated stadium accommodated 25,000 fans and was made mostly of wood. The NFL teams that played there used the East High School’s locker room facilities, which were thought inadequate by the time the Packers played there. Players of the visiting teams would often dress into their uniforms at their hotel and walk to the field.
Believing that the team would be looking for a new home, officials from Milwaukee, about 120 miles south of Green Bay, constructed Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953. The city immediately lobbied the team to move there. The Packers played a part of their schedule in Milwaukee since 1933 so they had a fan base in the city.
Not happy with the condition of City Stadium, NFL owners called for the Packers to move to Milwaukee permanently or build a new stadium in Green Bay.
The Packers resisted NFL owners’ attempts to force a move to Milwaukee for several years. Finally, the team announced plans for the construction of a new stadium in Green Bay in August 1955 and the citizens of Green Bay voted in favor of a bond issue that would fund the construction. The original cost of the stadium in 1957 was $960,000, which wasn’t fully paid off until 1978.
Lambeau Field was the first stadium to be built specifically for an NFL franchise.
The Packers in Lambeau
The Packers played their first game in the stadium on September 29, 1957 defeating the Chicago Bears 21-17. Vice President Richard Nixon was present for the festivities as well as the commissioner of the NFL, Bert Bell, and George Halas, owner of the Bears.
Still, the Packers played a few regular season games at Milwaukee County Stadium. This was financially necessary. Lambeau Field was big enough to seat a little more than 32,000 while the stadium in Milwaukee was significantly larger.
Beginning in 1961 the Packers started a series of expansions and renovations to the facility and added capacity. By 1995 the venue could accommodate enough fans to generate revenue that allowed the team to play its full schedule in Green Bay.
In 1961 capacity was expanded to 38,669; to 42,327 in 1963; to about 50,837 in 1965; and to 56,263 in 1970. In 1985 72 private boxes were added that increased seating to 56,926 and 36 more boxes were added as well as 1,920-theatre style club seats that upped capacity to 59,543 in 1995. Finally, the north end zone was closed off for more seats that changed the configuration of the stadium to a complete bowl shape expanding volume to a total of 60,890.
The year 2000 marked the stadium’s 43rd anniversary and Packers executives thought that the facility needed to be renovated in order to stay competitive with the rest of the National Football League. The project was valued at $295 million. Stock sales in 1997-1998 garnered greater than $20 million and the rest of the tab was raised through a 0.5 percent sales tax in Brown County, where the stadium is located, and personal seat license fees on season ticket owners. By 2003 capacity was up to 72,515.
Lambeau is also the home of “The Lambeau Leap,” when Packers players who score a touchdown leap into the end zone stands. Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler was the first to make the leap following a touchdown after receiving a lateral from Packers defensive lineman Reggie White, who had recovered a fumble in a game against the Los Angeles Raiders on December 26, 1993.
The NFL banned excessive celebrations in 2000, but the Lambeau Leap is still permitted.
More fun facts about Lambeau Field:
- A live band called the Packers’ Lumberjacks originally entertained fans during the game. The band was replaced by recorded music.
- Bang the Drums All Day by Todd Rundgren is played whenever the Packers score a touchdown.
- Go Packers Go, the teams fight song, is played prior to Packers player introductions
- Jump Around song by the House of Pain is played during one time out resulting in jumping by people in the crowd. The tradition was started at University of Wisconsin football games.
Home Field Advantage
The concept of home field advantage takes on a completely different incarnation when it comes to Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers. The advantage is real because of the typical Wisconsin winters that wrap Lambeau Field during the postseason.
The example that we most remember is the Ice Bowl. On December 31, 1967 the NFL Championship game pitting the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys was played at Lambeau Field. The teams played in the harshest conditions. Players had to battle sharp winds and temperatures of -15° with a wind chill factor of about -48°.
Moreover, due to the malfunction of the Lambeau Field’s turf-heating system, which was supposed to prevent ice from forming on the field, when the tarpaulin was removed prior to the game, the field was covered in moisture that flash-froze leaving an icy surface over the grass. The conditions got worse as more of the field fell into shadow as the day progressed.
Waiting on the sidelines for the game to begin, the Dallas Cowboys players believed that Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi had purposely messed with the heating system to cause the icing. As a result, the Lambeau Field ground heating system would forever be known as “Lombardi’s Folly.”
In 1997 the cold climate affected two playoff games, the NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Packers and San Francisco 49ers and the NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Carolina Panthers. In both games players had to contend with mud and cold.
In the 2007 NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Giants the teams had to battle each other as well as temperatures as low as -4° and a wind chill of -24°. The Packers lost the game in overtime 23-20.
From the first playoff game played there in 1957 until January 2003 when they lost to the Atlanta Falcons 27-7, the Packers never lost a playoff game in Lambeau Field. Their overall postseason record is 15-5.
Five championship games have been played in Lambeau, three NFL title games (1961, 1965, and 1967); and two NFC Championships after the 1996 and 2007 seasons.