Days 73-74 Monday & Tuesday July 2-3, 2007 – Chicago, Illinois and Green Bay, Wisconsin
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Monday was to be spent partially at Six Flags Great America in Chicago. Yesterday we drove about 40 miles north of Chicago and stayed in Waukegan, IL, near the Six Flags park.
Once again, we happily managed to ride all of the roller coasters in the park today. Being that it was Monday, I didn’t know what to expect, but the lines were manageable most of the day. We arrived when they opened at 10 am and left shortly before 6pm. Six Flags Great America is one of Six Flags’ flagship properties and that fact is evident in many ways. Since Six Flags Great America was originally built and operated by the Marriott Corporation, the theming is much better than most of Six Flags parks. If you have heard of Great America in northern California, then you would be familiar with this park. They were built as sister parks and featured many of the same rides and attractions.
After our eight or so hours at Six Flags, we headed up to Green Bay, Wisconsin to settle in for the night. As we approached the city, I enthusiastically directed Jasmine to drive towards Lambeau Field. She remarked, “Why do we have to go see it tonight?” I quickly replied, “I have waited a long time to see this place!” She finally gave in and after a few minutes, we pulled up to the parking lot, I took a couple of blurry pictures and we headed to the hotel for the night.
Tuesday morning, I jumped out of bed very quickly. After all, I was finally going to see Lambeau Field. If you don’t know me personally, than you are probably asking yourself, “Why all the commotion?” I have been a DIE HARD PACKERS FAN since 1994. Throughout junior and high school I was made fun of because of my love for the Packers. Now, when not traveling the world, I sit at the bar with my dad and a couple of friends on Sunday mornings to watch my beloved team play. You see, for me, it was a BIG DEAL to be in Green Bay, at Lambeau Field.
We got to the stadium about 9:45am in hopes of catching the first tour of the day so that we might get an early jump on our four plus hour drive to Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the 10am tour was sold out, but we were able to get tickets for 10:30am. With some time to kill, I poked my head around the atrium and took a little time to browse the massive Packers Pro Shop.
Lambeau Field was built in 1957 and was considered to be state of the art at the time. Unfortunately, in the 1990’s NFL, it was outdated and the Packers either needed a new stadium or major renovations to Lambeau. In the mid 1990’s Bob Harlem, president of the team, pushed hard in the community to raise the 250 million dollars to renovate the historic Lambeau Field. After a long public campaign by the team, the residents of Brown County, where Green Bay is located, approved a sales tax increase by a 51 to 49 percent margin.
Bob Harlem had a dream to convert Lambeau into a multi use facility, that could be used by the community on a daily basis. The result of his lofty dreams is a facility with year round convention facilities, restaurants, a huge Pro Shop and a new Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. The atrium is the centerpiece and provides a beautiful entryway to the stadium. The most important fact about the renovations, is that in updating the stadium, they were able to leave the original bleacher seating in tact. In updating the stadium, they simply added new levels and luxury boxes above the older seating. They certainly did a great job in blending the old with the new.
Our tour started in the new atrium with our guide giving us a talk about the history of the franchise. Being the fan that I am, not much of what he said was new to me, but Jasmine and Shawn Reece learned a lot. From the atrium, we walked outside to see the statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi towering over us. The statue of Lombardi was so life like and all I could say to myself was, “I love this place!”
From the statues. we went inside to see one of the new luxury boxes that were part of the renovations. Following that part of the tour, we went down to the bleacher seating near the field. After visiting the bleachers, we should have come upon the most popular part of the tour, but it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, since the field was under construction to prepare for the season, we weren’t able to walk on it or visit the player’s tunnel. I was a little sad to hear this news, but it gives me a reason to go back sooner rather than later!
In all, the tour lasted about an hour. Immediately afterwards we headed over to the Packers Hall of Fame, which is housed in the same building. Surprisingly, it took us about 2 hours to maneuver through the Hall of Fame, since I took every opportunity to relish in the history and didn’t miss a beat in sharing with Shawn Reece my love for the team. In the hall of fame, we saw several videos about the Packers storied history, drooled over their three Lombardi Trophies, walked through a replica of Vince Lombardi’s office and even took a minute to do the Lambeau Leap!
Like I said before,after two hours, Jasmine was ready to be done at the hall of fame, so we finally left (I through a little temper tantrum) and ate at one of the restaurants upstairs in the atrium. By the time we were done with lunch, it had been almost five hours since we arrived at Lambeau Field. I don’t think that we expected to spend so much time there, but it really just flew by. I truly loved it and Lambeau Field certainly has earned it’s reputations as one of America’s best sports venues. Before leaving, I had to buy myself a brand new Packers shirt to take with me beyond our borders. I need to spread the word about my Packers all over the world!
In Lambeau Field, for the first time in 73 days I finally felt at home. The drive to Minneapolis should have been pretty routine, but we were driving through a storm. At times, the rain was coming down so hard, that I couldn’t see anything. We did end up pulling over one time and during the short periods of heavy down pour, we drove very very slowly. When we arrived in Minneapolis (about the only place we have gone on this trip that I have been to before) we had dinner at the Timber Lodge Steakhouse. Why you ask? Well, because I have eaten there the last two years when I have been in Minneapolis. Why break tradition?
The Coomer Family