The Title in Titletown
If we’re boiling it down, quixotism can be defined as part blind hopefulness, part willful ignorance in search of an idealism perfectly suited to you, or for an idealistic situation overall. It is searching for that without regard for a universe full of problems and reasons why the said ideal scenario wouldn’t, or just can’t, realistically happen. It is believing in something potentially perfect despite all available evidence suggesting that the utopia being sought is, at best, a long shot stretching from here to the darkest dot on the moon and, at worst, simply not an option in this slice of reality we currently inhabit.
Quixotism has its benefits, or rather reasons people sometimes go down its rambling and rumbling path without regard for the bright yellow warning signs. It can represent a dream scenario, and, if you’ve watched your childhood allotment of Disney movies, dreams can come true, miracles can happen. The pursuit of an idealistic form of something takes physical and mental work against forces both from the outside and within. Maybe you need to be crazy. You also need to be crazy-committed.
But finally, quixotism, the silly, stupid beauty of it, is that if you’re truly investing in the open parameters of the idea, the absurdity of the dream doesn’t matter. The dream itself almost doesn’t matter. The journey, though – that sure as hell does. The utopia on the clouds made of marshmallow in the sky painted in the bluest of blues needs to be real for you. Real enough to believe in. You have to be ready to enter the jungle with no promise of finding a way out. And you might have to know, somewhere deep down, that if ideals were regular they’d be regular and not ideals. You might have to know that and then ignore it. Quixotism is that brave face. People don’t know if you know or not. That’s the defining factor: only you may ever really know what you believe, while others have no doubts whatsoever.
Remember quixotism and what it stands for, because now we’re going to talk about the possibilities of a Super Bowl coming to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Lambeau Field.
There are football-obsessed cities in every pocket of the country. And all that host a professional team naturally claim a certain undeniable connection between community and organization. Everyone has the Best Fans in the World, every stadium is the team’s home but also the embodiment of the surrounding sports community, for that’s where they meet on gamedays to support their team in public for the rest of the world to see, rain or shine or snow or Browns. Some of these connections on Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays are more obvious on the surface than others: Seattle’s home-field advantage is the loudest (in so many ways) going right now, Dallas’s the biggest and hollowly shiniest, Denver’s the closest to the sky, Oakland’s the outright scariest. Every stadium is unique because they’re all fundamentally different venues. That doesn’t mean they’re all unique like a face tattoo is unique, but they’re all different in some certain ways.
For the unmatched NFL experience, there is perhaps no better example than Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Its presence snatches those who’ve made the pilgrimage their entire lives or others crossing off a line on their sports bucket list all the same, the feeling of being in its stands amongst the history and tradition and devotees stands alone and is yet oft-repeated by visitors either from four blocks down the road or Milwaukee or Chicago or someplace else. Lambeau is a football church. One that’s been through and is currently undergoing upgrades to make the experience better, the devotion deeper. Its capacity of just over 80,000 is one of the NFL’s largest. But for the monstrous scoreboard additions and the south end zone now towering over the rest of the stadium, Lambeau hasn’t lost its homey feel. There isn’t a bad seat in the place, you’ll often hear people say. The aluminum bench seating works better the less layers you’ve got on, but in those winter months also keeps you close to body heat, which might be the only source of warmth available. It is gigantically cozy, if that is even possible.
Home-field advantage depends largely on the team on the field. Still, with all the newish in-stadium amenities Lambeau has installed in its recent renovations, the old stadium’s mystique cultivated over seasons of triumphs and memories and last-second wins and blisteringly cold affairs and record-setting performances hasn’t been lost to modernity. Every advancement is woven into the tradition and the aesthetic seamlessly, like it’s not even there or has been all along. Lambeau Field has never become Lambeau Field at Walmart Stadium presented by Doritos. There is a difference in that place, and whether you’re at Lambeau or you’re seeing it from afar, the difference is noticeable.
To wit: NFL.com published a list of 12 Must-see Stadiums in 2013: Lambeau was No. 1. In 2013 Complex Magazine named Lambeau No. 2 on its list of 50 Stadiums to See Before You Die, saying, “The Frozen Tundra is the most brutal, badass thing left in the NFL these days.” Stadium Journey magazine listed Lambeau as one of the Top 100 Stadium Experiences of 2013. Athlon Sports named it the best NFL stadium of 2013. Sports Illustrated called it the best stadium experience in the NFL in 2007 and 2008. ESPN the Magazine did the same in 2009 and 2011. These aren’t the long-winded results of combing through dozens of Google search pages. These are just the results that presented themselves. On the first and second and every page after.
Green Bay voted to build a new stadium in 1956, and the new City Stadium opened in 1957. It became Lambeau Field in 1965 following the death of Curly Lambeau, who was more than instrumental in the franchise’s very existence. From there the stadium and city grew up together. The Packers won five championships and claimed the first two Super Bowl titles in the 1960s by teams steered unrelentingly to glory by coach Vince Lombardi.
Lambeau Field is the place calling to all football fans. The stadium you need to see above all others, if you can only see one. The NFL is very much about parity, but the Packers and Lambeau have an unequal historical hold on the league. Lombardi’s name graces the trophy you grab after reaching football immortality. Professional football started and survived and thrived here as long, if not longer, than anywhere else, enduring terrible seasons and financial strains because the people who ran the franchise never let it die. Packers fans kept it alive too, and breathe new life into the team every season no matter the record. There was no place like it then, and there is no place like it today.
Now cut to the future. Early February. Sometime in 2019 or 2020 or beyond. Maybe there is snow on the ground or there’s a gentle shower fluttering down. It’s cold. Green Bay neighborhoods are dark as the short days turn to lasting evenings, but the Lambeau Field stadium district hums light into the sky. It is visible for miles around like a midnight sun. The stadium is lit up in its Sunday best, there are flood lights in the parking lot from studio shows and production trucks frenetically at work. All around the stadium tailgate parties roar on and bands play in restaurant parking lots. The streets around Lambeau are shut down. They had to be. People roam them now, spilling out of the stadium because the Super Bowl is over. At midfield, the spaceship-looking orb is hauled out and Roger Goodell, in a tasteful sweater over a blue oxford and under a dark-colored overcoat, orange hair tousled in the elements, is there with that year’s broadcasting partner-turned-after-party-host, the winning coach, and the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player. The flurries float down but it’s not overwhelming. People see their breath in the air but the winter breeze isn’t freezing snot to your nose. Confetti just exploded over Lambeau Field’s renowned turf, its heating coils underneath doing their jobs to expected perfection all day and night.
The Super Bowl was just played in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and it wasn’t easy. Lambeau Field is a destination spot for football fans and one of, if not the, crown jewel of NFL venues. It has the lived-in history, the tradition, the modern luxuries, and the current relevance. For a long time, though, Lambeau wasn’t the problem when NFL owners congregated to decide where they’ll be spending two weeks of their winter four or five years down the line.
Briefly, on that decision-making process. Each fall NFL owners meet to decide on the finalists for hosting a Super Bowl as far as five years in advance. The next spring, the same owners hear presentations from the finalists and vote. The first venue to get 75 percent of the vote wins the bid.* This is the simple part, the final delta spilling rivers of work, fundraising, lobbying, planning, testing, forecasting, public relations-ing, and more work into the lap of the NFL and, more specifically, the ocean of opportunity that comes with hosting a Super Bowl. All those rivers of work, the process of directing their purpose, eventually meet in the form of a 15-minute pitch finalists make to the NFL. That’s the end result of years and years of just hoping to get to this point. Then it comes down to one presentation. And that is still so far away from actually hosting a Super Bowl that it might as well be on Mars. Anyway, the scale behind this one game on one day are absolutely enormous, the stretching shadow of a single stone on a skyscraper.
* – Or it could simply come down to a majority vote. New York/New Jersey won the bid for 2014 that way in 2010, edging out Tampa Bay for the right to host Super Bowl XLVIII after three previous rounds of voting had yet to hit the 75 percent threshold.
For Green Bay that scale couldn’t be stressed enough. (Remember we’re still in the future here.) The NFL needs hotel rooms, lots of rooms, and rooms within an hour’s drive away. They need mass transportation systems in place capable of hauling media and fans and NFL big shots with ease and without issue. Said big shots need convention space to, uh, convene, and host sponsored events, and Super Bowl Media Day needs a great big plot of open space for basically an entire world’s worth of media types. Oh, and the teams? They need indoor practice facilities, set schedules, locker rooms, and the general feeling that getting to this point is a reward, and that this reward will be less a spectacularly big hassle and more the big spectacle they’ve worked and won so much to get to.
The Super Bowl last season missed a gigantic snowstorm that pummeled New York by one day. And while the door is now cracked open for cold weather cities with dreams of hosting Super Bowls, it doesn’t make weather a non-issue, either. Especially with all the other concerns a Super Bowl in Green Bay poses, the NFL needs weather to just chill the heck out for a few weeks, thanks.
But here in the future it all somehow worked out.
Okay, hotel rooms were still a stretch. The NFL lifted its hour-drive requirement, allowing Milwaukee and Madison to open their hotel rooms, and Green Bay snuck over the minimum total of rooms needed. Transportation, while it wasn’t like hopping on a train in New York City or being a half-hour away from everything like in New Orleans, worked out well enough. Shuttles and buses and cars drove in everyone who needed to be in Green Bay, and then back, and sure it was a lot of time spent on the road for some, but it worked out. Snowy streets and highways were handled with ultra-sensitive care by road crews, because unlike North Texas a few years ago public works departments across Wisconsin are prepared to match winter’s hell every time with trucks and plows and salt, oh my God so much salt, and speed and more experience than anyone wishes they had. The two conference champions had their own indoor practice time at the Don Hutson Center. It wasn’t ideal but their practice schedules were juggled effectively enough. It worked out. Media Day was hosted in the BMO Harris Bradley Center (or whatever a new arena might be called by then) in Milwaukee, as were some of the larger conventions and meetings. Green Bay got to do its entertaining in the middle of it all, but got the necessary help from its friends across the state, each city eager to do their part in playing host.
You might be wondering: why did the NFL do this? Why jump through all these extra little hoops that bringing a worldwide event, the biggest in the United States, to good ol’ Green Bay presents? That’s a great question on many levels. And this is where the limits of this particular quixotic project are really stretched. Ultimately it happened because Green Bay, in NFL terms, is Green Bay, and there’s only one Lambeau Field. And, last but probably first, the committee behind bringing the Super Bowl to Green Bay convinced the league that this made sense as a business decision as well as a football one. (It was a really great presentation.) So could it happen? In a future we just made up, and in a world where everything breaks the way it has to break, and where people are flexible enough to let things only sort of work out, where the NFL is flexible with its bottom-line business policies? Yes. In that world it could.
But what about today, or in the real future? Could Green Bay really host a Super Bowl? Could the historical impact and overall Freaking Awesomeness that would be the league’s biggest game in its most hallowed venue outweigh all the concrete needs, the brass tacks, those massively critical logistical issues? Or in the end does quixotic idealism only take us to the football game, because little else of this would be an ideal of anything? Does it even matter if Green Bay can host a Super Bowl? Let’s try to figure some of this out.
Probably the biggest issue, the one we heard over and over again in talking about a Super Bowl in Green Bay to people who know more about the subject than we do, would be hotel rooms. In January of 2014 Goodell said the NFL requires 30,000 hotel rooms in the Super Bowl city or nearby. That’s up even from 2010 when, speaking at the Packers annual shareholders meeting, Goodell answered the Super Bowl-in-Green Bay question by saying, “It’s not about weather as much as it is infrastructure. You need 25,000 hotel rooms within 60 miles. It’s an extraordinary undertaking.”
Let’s break down the 25,000 rooms within 60 miles benchmark. Per their website, the city of Green Bay has 4,300 hotel rooms. The Fox Cities, well-within the 60-mile radius, offers 3,071 rooms according to the Fox Cities Visitors Bureau. From Visit Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee area has 16,176 rooms. Milwaukee is 118 miles away driving on Highway 43, about 140 going down on Highway 41. Per our state capital’s spring/summer 2014 visitor’s guide, Madison offers more than 9,000 hotel rooms. Madison is, along with being not a straightforward drive, somewhere between 136-154 miles away depending on the particular trek you take. Keeping Madison’s estimate conservative, right at 9,000, the total number of hotel rooms between Green Bay, the Fox Cities, the Greater Milwaukee area, and Greater Madison comes to 32,548. Keep in mind, these are all the available rooms in these cities. So this relies upon the idea that Super Bowl-related people are the only ones who will be renting them, that no one outside that bubble will be in need of a place to stay for maybe the better part of two weeks. Again, we are living in a world here where everything works beautifully and without a hitch or a couple, or any, bonus weary travelers.
This figure of 32,548 hits the NFL’s ground-floor requirement for rooms, even Goodell’s most recent estimation, but not within the 60-mile radius. Cities like Manitowoc (inside the radius at 43 miles away) and Sheboygan (just outside at 67 miles) could potentially be enlisted for help too, although on a limited basis. And for every new city another strand is woven in the complex web of transportation. In Madison and Milwaukee we are talking about the state’s biggest cities, areas that would have to be involved in a Super Bowl bid for the thing to have a chance in Green Bay, and they’re both at least two times over the NFL’s required distance of miles away. Then we’re bringing huge numbers of people to and from them in the middle of winter.
All that said, there are a couple factors possibly working in Green Bay’s favor here. One is that the NFL’s advisory committee lifted its requirement that Super Bowl cities have to be 50 degrees or higher a month prior to the game when allowing New York/New Jersey to bid on the 2014 championship game in 2010. All 32 NFL owners supported the bid, despite the potential weather problems, back then. So there’s precedent, albeit in a different category and regarding a very different locale, for the advisory committee to loosen requirements in the name of hearing out a bid. It’s a bid that increasingly feels as though it’d have to be a statewide effort. Green Bay’s got the stadium, but it’ll need help with all the people coming to see the spectacle.
We’ll get into the logistics of transportation in our second installment of this series, due out in the next issue of Packerland Pride magazine, since it’s clear folks will need to be delivered back and forth to Green Bay from cities around the state. But for now a look at a few other ideas sometimes offered up as solutions for Green Bay’s Where To Stay? problem.
One brought up while talking to Brad Toll, the President and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was people offering up their homes, or part of their homes, to visitors in what would be such a classically Green Bay thing that we can see the folksy television features on it from here. Before we know how many Green Bay natives would even be interested in opening up their home, Toll reminds that private houses would probably have to be inspected for safety, and possibly even insured as private businesses in case something were to happen while guests are staying over.
Then there’s the more superficial level of the matter. Whereas some might enjoy the small town feel of staying with Aunt Sharon and Uncle Ron, not all NFL big wigs, owners, employees, and media members might be looking forward to staying in someone’s guest room, as opposed to the reliable comfort and amenities a hotel can provide. Again, for the teams playing and the NFL itself, these two weeks are a celebration of their game (and let’s be honest, themselves), and the higher someone ranks the more increasingly likely they’re going to expect a certain level of comfort and pampering. Fancy hotels almost always fit the bill. Private homes, while we could see this as part of the Green Bay Super Bowl charm, and with the potential to be pretty awesome depending on the hosts, are more or less a crapshoot. Either a uniquely Green Bay experience, or a PR misstep.
Another sometimes-discussed solution, one that Toll was ready to answer, was the idea of cruise ships docking on the Fox River and housing people right on the water. In New York for last season’s Super Bowl, a 4,028-person Bud Light-sponsored cruise ship, called the Bud Light Hotel, docked on the city’s West Side for four days leading up to the Super Bowl. It sailed over from Europe and housed Bud Light partners, VIP guests, and ticket winners from the general public, according to a report from DNAinfo New York.
A ship coming into Green Bay couldn’t be as big as one that sails the ocean. It’d need to be ready and small enough to navigate the Great Lakes into the Green Bay area. And then, as Toll mentions, there’s the issue of porting, where to put a ship on the Fox River for an extended period of time. So there’s that, and then there’s the basic question of how many extra rooms that’d even create, and if it’d be worth the cost of bringing in a ship to do so, unless a sponsor like Bud Light helped foot the bill.
A few examples from companies specializing either in Great Lakes cruises or small-ship cruises. Travel Dynamics International, its emphasis in small-ship cruising, describes one of the advantages to that type of cruising on their website: “First, small ships can dock or anchor almost anywhere. We are not limited to large commercial ports