Packers asking fans for input on potential Lambeau Field changes

MILWAUKEE -- The Green Bay Packers will hold focus groups in Milwaukee and Green Bay to discuss expanding Lambeau Field.

The invitation obtained by The Associated Press asks those invited to share "thoughts and opinions on possible new seating opportunities at an expanded Lambeau Field." Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey said the franchise has held focus groups annually for the past 10 years and that no plans to make changes to Lambeau Field are imminent.

"It's a dialogue we enjoy having every year on various topics, and this year, it's that topic," Popkey said Friday. "Before we redeveloped Lambeau Field, a lot of the ideas that went into the new Lambeau Field came from those surveys."

Popkey declined comment on whether the 72,928-seat stadium would change in capacity or if the number of luxury boxes or club seats would differ with any changes.

The Packers delayed a $25 million expansion project in October 2008 to build a plaza around the popular Lambeau Field Atrium and add underground parking and more space for team operations.

St. Norbert College economics professor Kevin Quinn said the Packers could be looking at reconfiguring seating inside the stadium to add more people, but that it wouldn't make sense until any upcoming NFL collective bargaining negotiations are completed. The league's labor agreement with players runs out after the 2010 season.

"The Packers are being very smart in looking at what kind of options they've got," Quinn said. "I can't imagine that anybody's going to want to make any capital decision on stadiums or what's around them until the sharing thing gets decided. What's the appeal of luxury seating if you've got to share it?"

Lambeau Field is the oldest continually operating NFL stadium and third-oldest continually operating venue in major sports behind Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. The Packers' stadium has undergone numerous renovations, updates and additions since opening in 1957, going from 32,500 seats when it opened to its present configuration.

Dan Shoman, 37, of Wausau has been on the waiting list for Packers season tickets for about five years, and more than 69,000 people are still in front of him out of more than 81,000 total. Shoman said that didn't stop him from attending five games at Lambeau Field last year, but it means something different to be a season-ticket holder.

"I'd be ecstatic," said Shoman, who believed he would have received season tickets a few years ago after being placed on the list at birth, only to learn his father hadn't updated their records after a move. "Even if it was some sort of rotational schedule before you got full seats, it'd be really cool to know you'd have some sort of tickets lined up."

Shoman, who expects to get Packers season tickets in 2040, said he'd like to see some sort of large deck that amounted to standing-room-only areas of the stadium like those in Dallas, Tampa and elsewhere.

"That's pretty normal at most of the new stadiums," Shoman said. "It's nice because you're not crunched in a seat. ... It's a really social atmosphere."

Popkey declined to comment if that's one of the ideas being considered, but that the fan experience is paramount to any decisions the Packers will make.

The most recent $295 million addition at Lambeau Field took place from 2001 to 2003 and added 12,032 seats as well as the popular atrium, an expanded Pro Shop and several new food and entertainment options. The project included a half-cent sales tax in Brown County to raise $160 million and made 4,000 tickets per game available to county residents only beginning in 2003.

That tax is set to expire in the next three or four years, depending on the economy.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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