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Rising Prices at Lambeau Increases Need For Success On The Field

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Rising Prices at Lambeau Increases Need For Success On The Field


My boss came up to me earlier this week, all excited, asking me, "Hey!  How would you like to work for the Packers?!"

Yes, for a moment, my heart fluttered.  I actually have entertained this thought in the past, and thought perhaps my ship had finally come in.  My natural skepticism kicked in, though.  "What's the catch?" I asked her.

"I received a request for groups to work at Lambeau Field running concessions for this year!" she gushed.  "All we have to do is go through eight hours of training and we can make a ton of money for our non-profit."

"So, wait," I replied, "I can go put in a full workday on the weekend to get trained for the privilege of missing every home Packer game this year?"


Long pause. "You really don't know who I am in my secret life, do you?"

Delaware North Companies Sportservice has been off to a rocky start as the new concessionaire for Lambeau Field, and I was a bit tentative about it.   With the new management has come new profit margins for volunteer groups, new menus, and most of all, new prices.

Comparing my visit to Lambeau Field last January and last Thursday, the difference between the new prices under Sportservice and the old prices under Levy Restaurants was jarring.  When I went to last year's playoff game, I purchased a couple of beers for Rehor and myself for a Disneyesque price of $13.00.  This year, the new 16 oz. aluminum bottles will run you a cool $8.00 a beer, a price they wouldn't even reach at the Magic Kingdom.

My father-in-law, a season ticket holder who has only missed a few games since 1958, shook his head at his $92 dollar ticket and one beer that now runs into triple digits.  For a guy who can show me ticket stubs that were only $7.50, he sees the rise of prices hitting the common man whose attendance at Lambeau Field kept this franchise alive for many years.

The fact that he also rarely turns down a beer, but now swore he's only buying one per game, speaks volumes.

A quick look on the new menus reveals that beer is not the only commodity that has seen some pretty steep increases.  Ever notice how you never realize the increases over the short-term?  They are mild and steady, perhaps raising the cost of a beer fifty cents or a ticket by a dollar or two.  But nearly everything at the concession stands looks like it has had the cost raised by at least a dollar over last year, if not two.  You can get a beef stick for $4.00.  You can get a large brat for $9.00.

In addition to the hefty increase in concession price, the new vendor told the non-profits that have volunteered their time for years during the games that their take-home revenue would be sliced in half from the usual $20,000-plus they've been used to raising.  You can see the problem.

In short, Sportservice undercut the bidding process, and both the consumers and those folks who volunteer their time to help worthy causes are making up the difference.

It's a tough reality, the merging of the corporate profiteering and the home-spun tale of the little football team owned by the folks in the community.  We all accept the need for the Green Bay Packers to keep revenue flowing in order to remain competitive in today's NFL:  after all, remember the Dark Years between Lombardi and Holmgren, when the franchise was a sleepy company that kept costs down while sitting on coffers of money, rather than investing in many of the conveniences today's Packer fan now enjoys.  Then, we patted ourselves on the back if the team finished with a .500 record and sat in a stadium that seemed forever trapped in the 1950's.  Today, we expect to be playoff contenders every year and enjoy one of the most unique and fan-friendly stadium experiences in the nation.

That didn't just happen.  Give the Packers corporation credit:  they spent money in order to make money.  And the bottom line has finished in the black both on the finance ledgers and in the win-loss column.

But this latest price hike in the game day experience isn't sitting comfortably with many Packer fans.  Sportservice needed to shuttle up hundreds of concession workers from Milwaukee to cover the exodus of non-profit volunteer groups who decided that half the fundraising total was no longer worth it.  And there is some sense in that logic:  if my father-in-law, who used to easily purchase five or six beers over the course of a game is now limiting himself to one, that's not helping your bottom line.

As I looked around on Thursday night, the lines at the concessions were definitely shorter than what I've been used to.

Like everything else in life we have to budget for, it is no longer just coming down to just the price, but the value that you are getting for your dollar.  For the first time, my father-in-law complained about having to sit on hard, aluminum benches.  He never did that before.  But then, he never paid $92 for each ticket to the game, the increased cost of concessions.

He could request to trade in his seat  for one in the new addition, which will have those clearly non-Lambeau-esque chair backs and cup holders, but he will have to wait for the body catchers to be installed that will be needed to safely catch fans who pass out from a lack of oxygen at such high altitudes.

Maybe I'm just noticing this financial conundrum because I am reaching the point where attending a game is becoming a true financial hardship.  After all, with a family of five, you are having to make plenty of choices as to where you budget your money, and its becoming more difficult to justify a $300-plus price tag for Wifey and I to attend a game.  If its getting harder for me, I have no doubt that there are many other Packer fans who reached this breaking point a long time ago.

I'm no economic genius by any length of the imagination, but there's perhaps no easier way to visualize supply and demand than the resale cost of Packer tickets.  The fact is that since Mike Holmgren came onto the scene in 1992, the Green Bay Packers have had only two sub-.500 seasons in twenty years.   Keeping a quality product on the field is imperative.  It's a far cry away from 1983, when I used my paper route money to buy someone's entire season ticket  for less than the cost of one ticket today.

The fact that the Packers have a season ticket waiting list that hovers near six figures also gives the Packers organization the impetus to see exactly how far they can push prices before it actually affects their bottom line.  My guess is they may still have some wiggle long as the team remains successful.

But memories of last January's playoff game may give us all pause.  More than 24 hours before the Giant game started, ticket prices plummeted to below face value on the resale market, and this was for a team that just went 15-1.  Yes, they typical excuse is that people were saving their money for the NFC Championship game, thus the demand went down for the first divisional game.

That's exactly my point.  When people are picking and choosing what playoff games they can afford to attend, what might happen when the ticket prices are triple-digits, the beer prices are double-digits, but the Packer record is in the single-digits?

It's a financial cliff that may end up hitting a team that is trying to keep pace with large-market teams, while maintaining its very unique situation.  It is the only publicly-owned team in the NFL.  However, it is a publicly-owned team that doesn't pay out dividends to its stockholders.

As they say, the dividends are paid out in victories, and no one has paid those out better than the Green Bay Packers in the last twenty years.

But we can't expect this success to truly last forever.  Ted Thompson isn't going to work here and continue a fantastic run for the next twenty years--not when the system is designed to eventually pull you back down to reality after you've had tremendous success.  We saw that in the late 90's, after the Packers won the Super Bowl.  We saw it again after Mike Sherman's impressive run with four consecutive playoff appearances and three consecutive division titles.  And we'll see it again with the McCarthy/Thompson regime, to some degree.

Someday, the Packers may finish 4-12 again, just as they did in 2005 (when a face value ticket was almost half what it is today).   It wasn't a big deal to pay $13 a game for season tickets when I made $30 a week on my paper route in 1983.  Even if it was to see a crummy team, the value was there.

How much is too much, especially if the Packers fall under hard times?  What happens if the unthinkable happens, and career-ending injuries destroy the nucleus of this team?   What happens if Thompson and McCarthy move on to greener pastures, not unlike Mike Holmgren, and leave the Packers with Ray Rhodes Part Two?

This might sound like I'm whining that Packer games are too expensive, and maybe you'd be right in accusing me of that.  But if I'm noticing it, I'm sure that many other Packer fans are feeling the same way (as well as the non-profits that usually manned the concession stands, half of which decided to call it quits).  The Packers success, however, goes beyond just the cost of a ticket and concession prices, but the year-round influx of fans who purchase items from the Pro Shop, take tours of the stadium, and visit the Hall of Fame.

The Packers can ill-afford to reduce the demand of their product, especially when fans are already picking and choosing which games they can ill-afford to attend.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Colleen's picture

Nicely said, CD. I wish someone from the Packers would read this.

Mark's picture

Great Read ! I often wonder what happens when inevitably we come into a down cycle ?

I lived through the Packers of the 70/80's and would still be there regardless BUT can you say that about fans who don't know those years?

Are the packers perhaps getting a little greedy with all the expansions and additions ?

Too much too soon ?

Anyway great stuff CD ! Bravo

Chad Toporski's picture

Your writing never disappoints, CD!

Bearmeat's picture

You're right CD. But even if Packers Brass would read this, they'd give it lipservice and keep to the status quo of all sports arenas/theme parks/movie theaters.

Prices are going to keep going through the roof. Americans overspend and overconsume on non life sustaining things. That's our identity.

And short of the country financially imploding (sorry to get into politics here - but economics is part of the political deal), it's not going to stop any time soon.

CanadianPackersFan's picture

Price of success and keeping up wqith the rest of the NFL. U folks are so blessed to have team .. 180 Million other people in city all over the US wish they did.

markinmadison's picture

There is no question - this will have an impact. My wife's aunt actually passed on buying playoff tickets altogether last year. It was an additional expense her family could not afford, and she could not tolerate the risk of reselling. The faces at the games are definitely going to change in the next decade. Bye bye beer drinkers in jerseys. Hello craft beer drinkers in golf shirts.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

4k. 4k (on the low end) for myself and 7 family members to see the Pack at 'The Clink' week 3 for MNF if we want first level seats between the 30's from StubHub.

Mom, Dad, Sis and my Niece are coming out that week, and they all wanted to go... But tix are $500 and up for a decent one, I've had nosebleeds at the clink and don't want to again... Rather stay home.If it was up to me I'd probably lube up and pay it for the wife and kids and I, but the others said hell no. They'd pay $200-$300, but $500 (or more)... For a regular season game... Week 3... Against the damn seahacks?!?! They're not having it

We decided that we can buy some really good steaks, really good beer, and everything else for a fraction of the price and watch it in HD. I'm still a little bummed about it, but I really can't blame the fam... Shit's getting out of hand.

Well done CD.


Doug In Sandpoint's picture

BTW Fitz, unbelievably I will be in Milwaukee on business for the Seagulls game. I'll be watching with the Wisconsin crowd instead of paying the price in Seattle. Sorry.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I was thinking about you and this game Doug. We will have a beer sometime... AT A GAME!

Bearmeat's picture

I live in Austin, and am going with some friends to the GB/Texans game. (Wife can't come) 30 yd line as high up as possible visitors side seats. With parking pass, gas, and tailgating... we're talking $400 per person.

Friggen ridonkulous.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Yeah it is. To date the most I've ever paid for a tick at Lambeau is $250 and that was 11 row 40 yd line, MNF on bretts 200th (worth every cent). Hard to justify paying double that for a non-Lambeau, non-Playoff game.

Bearmeat's picture

I don't have buyers remorse. Even if the missus and I stay at the 'rents house, flying back to wisky is $800 at the current rate.

Then you'd add on the $150 at least to go to the game (in admittedly the best stadium in pro sports). At that point, you're up over a G.

I'm a Packer nut. But spending 1/12th of my grad school stipend for three hours.... ugh.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Lol, I hear ya man. Have a blast at that game, that should be a doozie!

JohnRehor's picture

Rehor thinks this is a great article by Angeli.

I really hope someone at the Packers would reads this. It won't change the way they conduct business, but it might raise an eyebrow about the way they conduct business.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Rehor right.

Franklin Hillside's picture

My frustration sits with season ticket holders who make a ton of money selling their tickets on the secondary market.

That's what makes it hard on fans with no connection to season tickets, not the face value of the ticket.

Oh, you have 8 season tickets?! Yes, please, go ahead and make money off of other fans who want to attend a game.

djbonney138's picture

I was doing some online shopping for tickets to the Lions game, prices seemed really high. Just for laughs I decided to check (for comparison) tickets for the Jaguars game. I assumed they would be a great deal cheaper but was surprised that almost identical seats were maybe 20 cheaper.

Zaphod Beeblebrox's picture

Franklin - Not all fans do that. Ask Rehor or CD.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

That's exactly it. The other 31 season tick holders know Pack fans travel well and are rabid. So they can pretty much charge whatever they want... And they'll get it.

Kurtmc's picture

Great article CD.

I'm in St.Louis & love visit Green Bay once a year. However, this year I am attending a road due to cost. Bottom line, it's cheaper to see my beloved Pack on the road, (at Indy), than at Lambeau.

In so far as concessions, The packers like all other NFL teams miss the target. They will sell more product at a lower price, than trying to maximize the margin on each sale ($5 a beer vs. $8 as an example). The fans are already in the stadium, don't rob us. Of course, we have the choice of not spending $, as another fan pointed out.

The Packers have a unique setup, super loyal fan base, year round stadium access, astranomical season waiting list, team jersey and other merchandise (top 5 in NFL sales, I think), why continue to screw your fans. Fine, raise ticket $, don't over charge for all the other stuff.

That does nothing to enhance your fan stadium experience. It just pisses off your loyal fans.

Go Pack

bleedsgreen's picture

Great article and great medicine for some of the more utopian socialistic Packer fans out there.

This type of corporate management is always maddening, but more so with the Packers who actually have an opporunity to lead in this regard. Leave a bit of value in there for the consumer and they will repay you in spades. Keep the food and beer reasonable, the fracking Legion Halls and Church Auxilliaries making their nice charity cuts each week, and have everything else expensive and "with the times" as they claim, and Lambeau will still be raking in sufficient (and sustainable) dough for the organization. It's a certain type of profiteering that just seems to spite itself, following a "raise prices or die" ideology, even if it dries up demand.

It's like they'd rather, given the same profit, sell less for more, rather than the opposite. But when food and drink and local charity is on the line… why go the dark way? Embrace the light whenever you can GBPackers. We know this can't operate as an entirely idealistic enterprise, but when you can make the idealist choice and still sustain profit, do it, dammit - this is Wiscahnsin - it's how we roll (or used to).

Josh's picture

Even though everyone loves them being "fan-owned" this monopoly does what every other monopoly does. Set prices, increase them every year possible. And most of you saps are fine wih going to a cold-ass stadium, sitting around during TV timeouts, and generally not mattering to the team.

Franklin Hillside's picture

You need a hug.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Nice article CD. Just wondering, how much does a paper route make these days? A $13 ticket to the game cost you 43% of your weekly earnings. If you make $213/ week delivering papers now, it would be about the same percentage (for that $92 ticket).

How much were your beers back then? Would they serve the hardworking paperboys?

Corey's picture

This is probably not going to be a popular position, ARE whining. $13 for 2 beers at the stand? This is in line with what beer costs at stadiums throughout the country.

And and I'm sorry, but the "My paper route in *1983* (which was THIRTY YEARS AGO) paid for season tickets" is simply not a fair benchmark to use in this issue. Nor is 2005, for that matter, really.

That $92 ticket for 7 home games comes to $644. That's effectively what I spent for 1 seat to 20 games to the Brewers this year (and that's only a 1/4 of the season). Despite having 10 times as many home dates and a payroll only $20-25 million higher than the Packers (in current year cost--not impact on cap for the Packers), the cost of beer, soda, food is similar to the Packers. (Brats, for the most part are ~ $4.75, but they don't have "small" and "large" brats). I spent $9.25 for a bacon cheeseburger and chips.

Ok, Corey, so WTF is your point? Sorry. My point is: The Packers have FAR fewer opportunities and FAR fewer actual people in the stadium every year, but have structural costs that are similar to other major sports. (Point is: Imagine you have a company that has the same payroll costs as a competitor, but the competitor has 4 times as many customers). And yes, I know the Brewers/MLB have substantial other costs NFL teams do not.

The last point is re: the volunteer concessionaires. Using those volunteers, even with the higher shared percentage of profit, effectively subsidized the the concessions. (Either not having the payroll costs allowed that to be the shared profit OR it allowed Levy to keep the prices lower than they might have been otherwise). Concessions were a nice way for non-profits to raise funds, but there are many other ways to do that. The Packers have a responsibility to balance the demand that we all have for a competitive team with costs that a market like ours will bear. In that regard, you are absolutely correct the Packers must be very careful and they do need to be cognizant of what higher prices do to a largely blue-collar, middle class market like Green Bay.

M. Pingel's picture

Your points are all well taken, Corey, but the last sentence of your comment is the most salient and, I believe, speaks to the point that C.D. is trying to make.

I have a friend who, like C.D.'s dad, is a longtime season ticket holder. He's a huge Packer fan and also the person who has the most disposable income of anyone I know, and he forsees the day when the price of his tickets will exceed the value of the product.

When things get to the point where someone like my friend even considers relinquishing his season tickets (or keeping them, but selling on the secondary market), the Packers would be well advised to tread carefully when considering price increases. Pricing that sort of fan out of the stadium experience irrevocably changes the traditional character of the franchise.

retiredgrampa's picture

What agravates me most is that the ticket prices go up just after the Packers have a record $42mil profit! Not smart PR, IMHO. You'd think Jerry Jones owned the team.

Point Packer's picture

I just bought three real crappy tickets for the Seagull MNF game here in Seattle for $230 a piece and crap beer sells for something round $9.50 at the Clink Outrageous pricing is starting to become a NFL reality, even in Title-town. I wish the recession would have effected ticket prices like it did condo sales.

Cat Migliano's picture

You can grouse about the rising prices, but they're still the lowest in the league. In 2006, the last time the Packers came to MIA, I paid $10 for a 12 oz beer. A small bottle of water was $12 & a large $25. I paid $50 to park. Forget finding a brat, or even a decent hot dog. Since Jennifer Lopez, Mark Anthony & Gloria Estevez bought into the franchise, it's mostly beans & rice & other Cuban foods to go w/the Salsa music. Tampa & Jax prices are similar. In Dallas, a 16 oz beer cost me $12 & I passed on the $15 bucket of popcorn.

Yet, Miami & Dallas aren't the most expensive in the league: Chicago's Soldier Field has that honor. For some reason, Gilette Stadium doesn't have the same prices for Giant games as Jets games. Giants being more expensive. Squeeze in there Foxboro, St Louis & Dallas, kind of, more or less in that order.

I've gone thru games where for whatever reason, I didn't get anything to eat & maybe just 1 drink. I've flown up to GRB to see the Pack play when they were 4-12. As a matter of fact, for the 2005 season, I flew up for 5 games. I'd do it again. It's not about the food & drink.

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