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Fans find plenty to cheer in Packers’ hometown

Green Bay

Six years ago, the town of Green Bay spent $295 million to renovate Lambeau Field, home of its beloved Green Bay Packers, the scrappy National Football League team that has snared a dozen world championships.

A number of meeting groups like to be in town during the team’s training camp in August, said Beth Peters, director of sales for the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“People love to watch the team walk from the stadium to the practice field,” she said. “Local children hand their bikes to the players so they can carry the players’ helmets. Some of those big ’ol guys actually ride those little bikes, while others carry them. That’s part of the team’s allure. You won’t find that accessibility in any other NFL city.”

The enormous stadium is also a destination, hosting 500 to 800 events annually, 50 percent of which are corporate.

In addition to the popular Packers Hall of Fame, the stadium’s gathering spots include the 800-person Legends Club Room; the MVP Private Box, where 22 to 50 guests can look down on an end zone; and the 39,500-square-foot Lambeau Field Atrium.

In Curly’s Pub, named for the team’s legendary coach Curly Lambeau, guests can play interactive games, drink and watch games in a huge sports bar, and dine in an eatery known for Wisconsin favorites like deep-fried cheese curds and Friday-night fried walleye.

Fresh local seafood is abundant, as Green Bay is set at the confluence of the Fox River and the Lake Michigan inlet that bears its name.

A number of downtown meeting sites are on the water. One, the KI Convention Center, is within walking distance of the city’s entertainment district and more than 600 hotel rooms. The 46,000-square-foot facility is connected to the Hotel Sierra, a 241-suite property that recently spent $7 million on renovations. Its new Bistro Bar adds function space for up to 400.

For planners in search of less urban surroundings, 500-acre Fox Hills Resort, 25 miles outside of Green Bay, has 336 rooms, 12,500 square feet of meeting space and 45 holes of golf, 18 of those on a Scottish-inspired, links-style course with 16 acres of water hazards.

Recently, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay became a golf destination when it purchased a nearby country club with a 27-hole golf course.

The U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II chose Green Bay for its 2009 national convention in August. The Radisson was an easy choice as the meeting site for 500 attendees, which included 150 veterans.

Located within the Oneida Casino Gaming Complex, the 400-room hotel has 28,000 square feet of meeting space in a woodsy setting across the road from Austin Straubel International Airport.

“All of our veterans are 82 years and older,” said Owen Williams, event chairman. “They could fly into Green Bay, look out the plane window and see the Radisson, call the hotel, be picked up by a shuttle and have their luggage delivered to their room without having to wrestle with bags or bother with a rental car. It’s perfect for elderly attendees. And the casino is an added attraction.”

While in Green Bay, the military group took buses to the National Railroad Museum, where events for up to 400 can be held among its 70-plus locomotives and railcars.

There was also a catered outdoor ice cream social at Heritage Hill State Park, a living history museum. The 50-acre park recently added a multimillion-dollar events facility with two indoor event venues and a garden patio overlooking the Fox River that can be covered by a 40- by-60-foot tent for groups of up to 200.

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