*When the Seahawks were scheduled to play the Packers in Green Bay in Week 2, it was a goal of mine to make it to Lambeau Field for the very first time. These are the experiences I had this past Sunday in Green Bay, Wisconsin*
The Drive: I stayed in Kimberly, Wisconsin which is about 25 miles south of Green Bay. We made our way up to Green Bay around 11:45am and we arrived into town at about 12:30pm. When you get off the freeway it spits you right onto Lombardi Avenue. Lambeau Field is about a half mile off the freeway on the right-hand side of Lombardi Avenue. On the left side of the street is about 15 blocks of residential neighborhoods. Our tailgate did not start until 3:30pm so our hope was to find parking on the street and then go check out what was going on around the stadium. We found parking with ease and by 12:45pm we were walking towards the East side of the stadium.
The Bar Scene: The area around Lambeau had an interesting mix of businesses. Throw in many different sizes of parking lots around a 5-block radius of bars, restaurants, motels, and other assorted stores and you have the scene in Green Bay. Our first stop was a bar called “Stadium View Bar.” We wanted to check out this bar first because this is where the Seahawks held a fan rally the night before so we were hoping the place would be full of Seahawks fans. While we were wrong for the most part it was still a very fun place to be. They turned their parking lot into a giant beer garden, complete with souvenir stands, a milk bottle throw carnival game, a food cart, and live bands. There were a several yellow jackets flying around outside so in order to prevent an anxiety attack, I moved inside to the actual “Stadium View” building. The place was packed with Packers fans and a handful of Seahawks fans also. The size of the building and the ambiance inside reminded me of the “Hawks Nest” bar down by CenturyLink Field. It was spacious with televisions everywhere you turn and the air conditioning made standing around watching the games much more comfortable than being outside. We stayed through halftime of the noon games before we decided to go walk around town some more. We walked down the street to a bar that my Dad had gone to the night before called simply, “The Bar.” This bar was even more spacious than “Stadium View.” The walls were filled with Packers memorabilia, televisions were in every direction you looked, and the latest top 40 hits serenaded everyone over the sound system. I stood at the bar until the end of the early games with a couple of fans from Vancouver, British Columbia. One was a Packers fan, the other a Seahawks fan. They told us their stories of prior trips to Lambeau Field while I told stories of my 10 years as a Seahawks season ticket holder. The best was when I showed them my IPhone video footage of last year’s NFC Championship Game! After the noon games we decided to walk back to our car in order to get ready to move it into the backyard of the property we were going to tailgate in.
Our Tailgate: When you are so close to a stadium like Lambeau Field it is common to see neighboring homeowners sell parking on their property. Walking back to our tailgate location almost every house had green and gold signs advertising parking on their lawns. $15 parking, $20 parking, even $50 parking! Some houses went as far to spray paint lines on their yards to create parking spaces. We had bought space in the backyard of a house directly across the street from Lambeau Field. At 3:30pm we moved the car into the backyard and set up our area in the corner of the backyard.
We were not equipped with a tent, barbecue, or anything like that but we did have enough beer and Fireball for our group of six plus bags of snack food. We were positioned next to two groups of Seahawks fans but one group spent the tailgate playing cornhole and the other left the property to tailgate-hop around the neighborhood. What put a slight dimmer on our tailgate however was a costly case of miscommunication.
There was a group of Seahawks fans that had apparently rented the house out for the weekend, most likely on a site such as Airbnb. Unfortunately the group had no knowledge that the homeowner allows other people to park on the property to tailgate. When we first arrived in Green Bay we went over to the house to scope out the scene. We introduced ourselves to the then-friendly group as they set up their television in the garage and played catch in the backyard. When our group and another group explained what was going to happen on the property it seemed to throw off their master plans. When we got back at 3:30 cars had already started to line the backyard, taking away the field they were playing catch on hours earlier. It was clear the renters were bitter and angry. This was confirmed when my Uncle was told to leave the garage by the group when all he wanted to do was check the scores of the ongoing games. We also inquired about the food they had seeming catered for the entire tailgate but we were rudely denied a chance at the bratwurst lunch for what seemed to be no good reason. Keep in mind, the renters were SEAHAWKS fans! Wouldn’t you think the group would be kind-hearted to the other Seahawks fans? That unfortunately was not the case.
The Stadium: We headed into the Lambeau Field Atrium and as soon as I walked through the doors I was blown away by the décor and the history. This wide open space featured banners of great players from the Packers past and also features the Packers Hall of Fame museum. Looking back it is a shame I wasn’t able to walk through the museum because I really wanted to see all of the artifacts and Green Bay’s four Lombardi Trophies. That will be the first thing I will want to do if I ever go back to Lambeau. We walked to our section and as I walked through the tunnel it reminded me of walking through one of the lower level section tunnels at the pre-renovated Husky Stadium. The field is below street level and each row of bleachers is stacked on top of the row in front of it. Being on the field would feel rather intimidating for an opposing player as the fans would seem to be right on top of you. The metal bleachers are traditional as they have no backs. The Packers really cram you into the bleachers, meaning you have little to no legroom and although it was a little uncomfortable, the tightness would really be beneficial later in the season when the weather is less than ideal. The inside of the stadium is magical. What made it so magical to me wasn’t so much the physicality of the stadium but the thoughts of the many big games and special moments that have taken place in that building since its opening in 1957. To me specifically, the thoughts of “what would it have been like to be here” for many notable Seahawks/Packers games over the years ran through my mind; the happiness I would have felt watching us demolish Brett Favre in 1999, to the infamous “we want the ball and we’re gonna score” Wild-Card playoff game in 2003, to the 2007 Divisional playoff game during a wild snowstorm.
The original bowl is topped by the press box and suites, winding from one sideline all the way around the north side of the stadium to the end of the opposite sideline. Three new levels of seating and a giant video board fill out the south endzone, which helps keep crowd noise inside the bowl. I admire Packers fans for the passion they have for their team. The entire bowl was full 15 minutes before the game started and they are very knowledgeable in regards to cheering when Seattle had the ball and keeping quiet when the Packers were on offense. Packers fans were much louder than I thought they would be. The people sitting around me were very friendly. The woman sitting behind me in particular wanted to know everything about our group; how we got our tickets, where we were from, and even the best way to go about getting tickets to Packers road games. Lambeau certainly lived up to the hype. Outside of Seattle it was the best place I have ever watched NFL football.
The Food: Going into this trip my goal was to indulge myself in two Green Bay delicacies, cheese curds and bratwurst. I knocked cheese curds off the list at “The Bar.” We ordered a tray of curds served with homemade ranch and it was better than any mozzarella stick I’ve ever had. I’d never had cheese curds before but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were extremely fresh. They were lightly fried and the cheese was creamy and flavorful. The ranch on the side made this incredible snack extraordinary. At the game I bought myself a couple of brats. On the menu at the concession stand it said they were Johnsonville bratwursts so I assumed the quality would be the same as bratwurst you buy at a grocery store in Seattle. Luckily I was dead wrong. In Seattle bratwursts you buy at the store tend to have tough skin and are really greasy once you bite into it. These were different. They were a soft bite and had a slight maple flavor to them which made for an interestingly delicious taste when you combine it with ketchup and their special deli mustard. In all the opposing cities I have seen the Seahawks play in, Green Bay definitely had the best football cuisine. I’ll have to make it out to Zayda Buddy’s in Ballard for my cheese curds fix sometime soon!
The Game: We lost 27-17 but despite the loss it was great to knock Green Bay and Lambeau Field off my bucket list. If you’ve never been to Lambeau, this is the one trip you have to take in your lifetime. Hopefully I can make it back again real soon! (But not in the winter…)