COLLECTORS’ CORNER: A NEW SPIN ON AN OLD STORY
Greetings, dear readers;
A number of you have asked for more information about last month’s article on the referendum that was part and parcel to the Lambeau Field renovation project. More specifically, there have been questions about the difference of opinion that had existed on The Green Bay News-Chronicle editorial staff regarding the referendum. It was all about the question of whether or not to pass a 0.5 percent sales tax to be borne by Brown County residents for the next 15 years to help fund the $295 million renovation project.
Initially, Publisher Frank Wood and Editor Tom Brooker were completely opposed to it and that attitude had appeared to have rubbed off on the majority of the editorial staff.
However, I personally was very much in favor of it and made a point of letting people know around the office about how I felt and why.
When the newspaper published its Lambeau Tax: The Vote/News-Chronicle Special Report edition on Sept. 7, 2000, five days before the vote, its official editorial position opposed the referendum. However, I was asked to write an editorial piece based on my position of supporting it to show both sides of the issue. As it turned out, Editor Tom Brooker had changed his mind and come over to the other side, but our Publisher still remained firmly opposed to it. This month, my editorial piece from that edition is reprinted here.
Thank you, Green Bay Packers!
The voters of Brown County will be making a very important decision on Tuesday affecting the future of Lambeau Field and ultimately, the Green Bay Packers. At issue is whether to add 0.5 percent sales tax to purchases made in the county to support a plan to renovate Lambeau Field.
Much has been said and written about the topic to date, both pro and con, by a variety of people who feel strongly about it. Hopefully, all of the voters who so desired will have had access to all of the information needed to answer the many questions raised by this issue before making their decisions one way or the other in the voting booth.
The Packers have given the city of Green Bay and Brown County a great deal over the years. In terms of identity, Green Bay is far more defined and better known than any other town of a similar size in the country because of the Packers.
While we might also be known as the toilet paper capital of the world, we certainly don’t receive the benefits of that distinction – or any other for that matter – that we get from our association with the Green Bay Packers.
This translates to well over $100 million of annual spending in Brown County simply because the Packers are located and play at least 10 games here.
Additionally, there are hundreds of jobs and over $9 million in local and state taxes pouring into the coffers because of their presence.
Despite these and numerous other acknowledged benefits of having the team here, there have been several well-founded arguments opposing the plan as being more than is needed and unnecessarily placing a greater tax burden on the residents of Brown County.
After considering the merits of all of these arguments, I have decided to still vote “yes” in favor of the plan, for three primary reasons:
First and foremost, while I realize something on a smaller scale could be done more economically, I accept Packers president Bob Harlan’s contention that this is the best plan. He has said to do less would be a Band-Aid solution that would require something more in eight to 10 years.
Some of the highlights of this plan include having the Hall of Fame and a stadium club as part of the complex to enhance revenues year-round, further strengthening the long-term financial structure of the franchise.
I also believe Harlan has done an excellent job of managing the organization at the top level since late 1991, when Ron Wolf was brought on board.
In a sense, I feel he and his management team have earned the opportunity to execute the plan they believe is best for the long-term viability and financial health of the club.
Secondly, the cold, hard facts of life in professional sports today dictate that if you want to play with the big dogs, you have to be able to ante-up with the big dogs.
It doesn’t really matter that as the smallest market team in the professional sports world today, the Packers have become a quaint oddity in the eyes of some; having long ago overcome the objections that Green Bay was too small, could not produce a first-rate team and could never draw the large crowds. The bottom line is we have proven for the last 80 years that we can go head-to-head on the football field, which is where it really counts.
It doesn’t really matter that the team is owned by the public rather than some billionaire and plays in a stadium that is owned by the city.
What does matter is the future and the fact is the 43-year-old stadium is going to need a large infusion of cash to upgrade it and allow the team to enhance some revenue streams and add others to remain competitive. I don’t think anyone would like to see a return to the losing seasons of the 1970s and ‘80s, but steps must be taken now to ensure the Packers’ financial future, thus allowing them to remain competitive.
One of the contentions of opponents to the plan is that if the Packers want public funding, they should be willing to open their books to public scrutiny. They have a point, but wouldn’t that compromise the organization from the standpoint that a competitor wanting to know exactly what was being spent in a specific area could easily find out and use it to their own advantage? And couldn’t other teams, both football and from other sports, wanting to lure administrative or other personnel away find out exactly what people were being paid and sweeten the pie just enough to entice them to go? These are important considerations that any regular business would have a problem with in making its finances a matter of public record and the Packers are no exception: It could hurt them.
The third, and probably most important reason I will be casting a “yes” vote Tuesday is to say thank you to the Packers for all of the excitement, joy, happiness and pride they have brought into my life over the past 40 years.
I can still remember my Dad listening to the 1961 NFL Championship game against the New York Giants on the radio New Year’s Eve of that year, since we didn’t have a TV. I also remember him telling me and my older brother and sister how special this was, especially after we pounded the big city boys 37-0. At six years of age, it was my first introduction to the Packers.
In the mid-1960s, he took me to a couple of games at Lambeau Field – one against the Vikings that I particularly remember – and I was hooked! Although I didn’t completely comprehend it at the time, I knew there was something very special happening right here in Green Bay, Wis., and that I was fortunate to be a part of it. It was true then and is even moreso, now.
Today, I can honestly say that my quality of life over that period of time has been better thanks to the Green Bay Packers! There is no place in the world I’d rather be living at this time of the year than Green Bay, and the Packers are an important part of the reason for that sentiment.
Finally, there are some decisions in life that one’s heart should play a part in and for me, this is one of them.
I will be saying thank you to the Packers by voting “yes” on Tuesday, and I urge you to do the same.
In closing, I quote from the final paragraph of Arch Ward’s book The Green Bay Packers (G.P. Putnam & Sons, copyright 1946):
“The community faith which rallied around the Packers in their struggling years in the league and strengthened them in other trying seasons is a wondrous quality. It is that rare type of faith which only such a city with the historical background of Green Bay has kept and will keep.”
Thurs., Sept. 7, 2000