Packers: A look inside game day weekend in Green Bay

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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GREEN BAY, WI – JULY 18: A general view of Lambeau Field before the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet for Brett Farve on July 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI – JULY 18: A general view of Lambeau Field before the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet for Brett Farve on July 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

Saturday before the game

The “calm before the storm” was Saturday in Green Bay. The town was already bustling with most of the action being around Lambeau Field.

I booked a 1 p.m. stadium tour three weeks in advance to ensure I would get a time that was convenient for my plans. I packaged the tour with tickets to the Packers Hall of Fame. The prices are very affordable and booking well in advance on game day weekend is highly advised.

Coming in from the north side of the stadium, I got off I-43 onto Lombardi Ave, and already the Packers history and tradition was in my face. The overpass siding was the same color as the outside of Lambeau Field with a big “G” engraved into the brick.

The street signs have Packers emblems and I was driving on Lombardi Ave, life was great.

Driving closer to the stadium, there are Packers flags flying, grills going and many people occupying the homes around the stadium. Fans clad in green and gold filled the areas with more than a spattering of purple seen everywhere.

The north side parking lot was full of cars already. Fans were gathering around the mecca that is Lambeau Field. A 100 seasons frame was set up just outside the east entrance to the Atrium for fans to snap a picture.

Just beyond was the three-story Lombardi Trophy looking out the window of the Atrium. As I exited the vehicle I got a notification on my phone stating Aaron Rodgers practiced that morning.

To my joy, the Packers players were exiting the players’ parking lot as we walked up to the stadium. Tramon Williams, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and the man himself Aaron Rodgers drove by as I walked towards the doors. I was giddy like a child as I saw the players, pointing and shouting out as I saw them.

Inside, the atrium was booming. Stadium tours were starting with the Packers Pro Shop full of fans looking for the latest Packers gear. There was a long and deep line to get into the Packers Hall of Fame. Chants of “GO PACK GO” could be heard throughout the stadium.

As my tour was about to start, I was surprised to see more purple than I would have liked to see in my group. But the fans were jovial and just as happy as I was to be there. Despite the heated rivalry, fans from both sides know and understand the tradition of this game and these two teams.

After some playful ribbing from the tour guides towards the Vikings fans, we were ready to start our 90-minute tour through Lambeau Field.

One of our guides was more than happy to show the Vikings fans what a real Super Bowl ring looks like. She was awarded one for her years of service for the team after Super Bowl XLV.

We made our way up through the stadium’s luxury suites and up towards the highest point of the stadium which also happens to be the highest point of Green Bay.

The view was amazing, looking over the field and then around Green Bay. “GO PACK GO” chants were initiated by the tour guide with him making the Vikings fans unknowingly lead the chant by counting us down.

The tour took us through the newest parts of the stadium in the south end of the stadium. The construction, completed before the 2013 season, is beautiful and Packers legends themed. The suite holders get catered meals to go with the amazing view.

After seeing how the good life can go, we headed down to the bowels of the stadium and to the Packers’ players tunnel.

As we start to walk down the tunnel, crowd noise is pumped through the speaker and an announcement introducing the 13-time world champions is played and the door opens letting you out into the field. Instant goosebumps.

As you pass through the tunnel there is a sign all the players touch, the bricks on the ground of the entrance are the same bricks Lombardi, Starr, White, Favre and all Packers legends have walked across. Packers fan nirvana.

After the stadium tour, it’s time for a bite to eat. A short walk across the street to the Packers News District and Hinterland Brewery was the choice.

A 35-minute wait didn’t detour our excitement. It was the one-year anniversary of the opening, there was food and drink specials throughout the district. We spent our wait enjoying what the district had to offer.

Shuffle board games were going on. Corn hole boards were set up for patrons, foosball tables open for use. The Play 60 NFL themed park was full of children having a blast. The full-length football field at the end of the Packers News District was hosting a special needs flag football tournament. The fun and excitement in their eyes was contagious.

Caught up in the competitive spirit, my friend and I decided we’d race each other in the 40-yard dash set up by the field. The attraction has an automatic timer wired to a scoreboard and many young kids were already racing.

I don’t know if it was our embarrassing time or realizing we were not in the best shape, but we instantly regretted our decision when we crossed the line. There was plenty of spectators to see us in all our glory.

Let’s just say I have a new-found respect when I see a 300-pound lineman get a sub five-second forty. My draft grade would have been, are you kidding me.

After lunch, it was back to the stadium for the Packers Hall of Fame. We had a newcomer to our group as my friend’s daughter who just started school at Wisconsin Steven’s Point joined us.

The Packers Hall of Fame is a two-floor exhibit with some combine drills mingled with Packers lore. Mock lockers were set up for Packers enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first floor.

The second floor has a replica of Vince Lombardi’s office and many Packer artifacts. A screen set up to watch highlights of Packers games was set up by the escalators. I was in Packers heaven. If it was up to me I would’ve stayed right there.

Before leaving the Atrium, we stopped by the pro shop for some more Packers memorabilia and gear. The store was packed. The Wisconsin Badgers-BYU game was on all the televisions. Although the game ended in a shocking upset, fans would not let their excitement die down.

Just outside the exit of the pro shop are the statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi. Many fans were congregating around Bob Harlan Plaza to get a picture with one of the legendary figures statue.

There is also a Lambeau Leap statue set up for fans to get a picture of themselves doing a leap. Believe it or not, there is usually a line around the Leap statue. The line is usually 10-12 fans deep and can take about five minutes for a picture.

One of the best things going around Lambeau is the environment, not just at the stadium but in the surrounding area. The houses directly across the street are not all residents. Some of the houses are specifically designed for rental and party use.

There are plenty of pubs around the stadium that offer up live music and other activities on Saturday as well as game day.

One of my favorite is Stadium View. It is located a block east of the stadium on Holmgren Way.  Walking down Armed Forces drive to the pub you pass the Don Huston Center and Ray Nitschke Field where the Packers hold practices and training camp.

There’s live music coming from Anduzzi’s Sports Club. The scene a block down is just as busy as the stadium and Packers News District.

Stadium View has a wonderful outdoor bar area with tables set up and many fans from both teams packing the place. A seven-foot replica of the Lombardi Trophy greets you at the entrance.

It’s clear that many fans made this a meeting place as people keep joining large groups already at the establishment. It has a game day atmosphere on Saturday night.

Our caravan of fans also grew by two as we had friends coming up from Milwaukee to join us at our house for the night and game the next day. Getting reacquainted with old friends is always a great time, but doing it in this environment makes it even better.

It was a great way to end Saturday night. The Packers News District was full of excitement and too many activities to do in one afternoon. The Atrium is living up to its purpose and was full of people all day long.

The fun extended beyond Lambeau Field and fans’ behavior was more than cordial. I know some places take pride in the nastiness that comes with going into their stadium, but I take pride in knowing our fans know how to act and have a good time.