Many American cities have an enduring love affair with their sports teams, whether they play collegiate or professional ball, outdoors or indoors. But fans of the 13-time NFL champion Green Bay Packers have forged an extraordinary bond between their midsize city in northeast Wisconsin and their legendary green-and-gold-clad football team.
In Green Bay, the Packers, and their huge home stadium, Lambeau Field, mean everything to fans, to community pride and to the economy. The Packers are the only publicly owned major league sports team in the U.S. The team has several hundred thousand shareholder fans and a decadeslong waiting list for season tickets.
“One of the first things people think of when they get here is the Packers and Lambeau Field,” said Beth Ulatowski of the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Lambeau is open for tours and houses the Packers Hall of Fame, a restaurant and a great fan gift shop.”
Green Bay will serve as the site of this year’s Small Market Meetings Conference, September 24-26.
Lambeau Field is now a year-round destination thanks to the five-story-tall, glass-enclosed atrium with 376,000 square feet of space for every type of event.
“When they renovated Lambeau Field in 2003, they wanted to open the stadium for more than just 10 football games a year and offer opportunities for events, meetings and every kind of gathering,” said Casey Ausloos, an account executive at Lambeau Field. “We utilize all our unique spaces to make them appealing to meeting planners and add an extra wow factor.”
Outside the stadium is the new Titletown District, a sort of neighborhood playground for adults. It features wintertime tubing lanes down man-made Ariens Hill plus ice skating, a full-size all-weather football field, a unique playground and plenty of game areas and fitness activities. Rockwood Terrace, a venue on top of Ariens Hill with breathtaking views through tall windows of Lambeau Field and Titletown, is fantastic for gatherings. An area known as Under Ariens Hill is another rental option for planners.
Just a hundred yards from Lambeau and right in the thick of Titletown activity is Lodge Kohler with 144 guest rooms. It has a wonderful restaurant, cafe and rooftop bar plus a sumptuous spa that offers massages, hydrotherapy services, facials, manicures, pedicures and more.
Green Bay, with a population of 105,000 — 320,000 metro — is also known for its pulp-paper and meatpacking industries and is a major regional health care provider. The city and bay are in the subbasin of Lake Michigan, and the Fox River flows through the community. The city is serviced by the Green Bay-Straubel International Airport, interstates 41 and 43, and Amtrak rail.
Brown County, surrounding Green Bay, offers 4,500 hotel rooms that are busy places, with hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving each year for more than just football game-day activities.
The city’s main meetings place is the downtown KI Convention Center, managed by Hyatt Regency Green Bay and conveniently connected to the center. The hotel has 241 guest suites. There is ample meeting and function space at the center, including a 25,000-square-foot grand ballroom. The exhibit hall and a second ballroom each boast 17,000 square feet of space.
The 2019 Small Market Meetings Conference will take place at the KI Convention Center. The Hyatt is the official conference hotel.
Hyatt general manager Kristine Hall believes that Green Bay is just right for many types of meetings and events.
“We should be selected over a lot of small markets because of the size of the convention center and our pricing, especially food and beverage, compared to larger cities,” she said. “We have a total of 80,000 square feet of function space, and we can conform to whatever needs the planner has.”
Also connected directly to the KI Convention Center is Hampton Inn Green Bay Downtown, with 135 guest rooms and suites. This riverfront hotel and the Hyatt have direct access to the 20-mile-long Fox River State Recreational Trail.
Directly across the street from the airport is the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, with 350 guest rooms and thousands of square feet of meeting space, which includes the Oneida Casino with many slots and gaming tables. A $19 million property renovation is about to get started.
Mary Shaw, Radisson’s director of sales, is proud to promote the city and its offerings.
“I think Green Bay is a wonderful community overall,” she said. “We’re more than just a football team. The Radisson is a long-standing property here, and we’re known for our service. So when people bring their meetings here, what is always their take-away is our service. We’re also very budget-conscious.”
Other Hotel Options
There are other outstanding hotels around Green Bay that offer distinctive meeting spaces. One of them is the Hotel Northland, with 160 guest rooms and 11,000 square feet of meeting and event space. A spectacular renovation was completed this past winter. Opened in 1924, the property was once the largest hotel in Wisconsin. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hotel Northland combines vintage beauty and charm with all of the modern amenities that today’s hotel guests expect.
“Our largest meeting and event space is the gorgeous Crystal Ballroom, which is original to the hotel and where many of the city’s main events were held years ago,” said Brandon Flitter, the hotel’s director of sales. “We hope it will be the scene of many more to come.”
Another hotel option with meetings space is Delta Hotels by Marriott, which provides 149 guest rooms and suites. There are also two indoor pools, a whirlpool and a fun waterslide. There are 11,000 square feet of space divided up in adaptable meeting rooms. The hotel is excellent for meetings, weddings and other events.
Two other hotels of note in Green Bay have plenty of meeting space. The Tundra Lodge Hotel and Water Park has the feeling of a woodsy northern lodge but also with an indoor water park for kids and families. There are 18,000 square feet of meeting space, two grand ballrooms and 15 meeting rooms. Other meeting site options include the reliable, local family-owned Comfort Suites Hotel and the Bemis Center and the Kress Inn, both on the campus of St. Norbert College.
More to Do
Football aside, Green Bay visitors have much they can do. Dozens of beautiful classic cars sit on display at the Automobile Gallery, owned by local legend Red Lewis. Inside a former car dealership, Lewis has assembled dozens of restored cars from practically every decade of the last century.
“People come up to me and say, ‘I had a Corvette just like that,’” said Lewis. “People are reminded of their lives 30, 40 or more years ago. Everybody loves it. It’s been fun.”
For a change-of-pace meeting location, the Gallery offers 18,000 square feet of event space amid the shiny cars.
Green Bay Botanical Gardens is a beautiful oasis that presents amazing seasonal beauty plus wonderful spaces for private or corporate events. Many weddings, ceremonies, concerts and family events take place in this setting. Visitors can wander the grounds and engage in the many activities that are scheduled year-round.
The National Railroad Museum calls Green Bay home. The railroad history, as seen through locomotives, rail cars and exhibits, is fascinating. Highlights include the world’s largest steam locomotive known as “Big Boy” and the railcar in which Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower planned strategy during World War II. Visitors can also learn about the history of the railroading Pullman porters and their link to the civil rights movement. There is plenty of room in the museum for meetings, events and other activities to take place in the midst of all the railroad history.
For some old-fashioned fun, locals and out-of-towners love to visit Bay Beach Amusement Park. Incredibly, the park is in its 127th season. The big attraction this year is the new 100-foot-tall Ferris wheel, nicknamed the Big Wheel. It’s twice as tall as the old one. The new attraction offers uncommon views of the city and bay from 20 gondolas. There’s a wooden roller coaster called the Zippin Pippin that was built from the same plans as Elvis Presley’s favorite coaster in Memphis, Tennessee. There are also a giant slide, a tilt-a-whirl and concessions. Admission is free. Ride tickets are priced incredibly low. The iconic park is within walking distance of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and numerous walking and bike-riding trails.
Local beer and cheese are mainstays of life in Green Bay. Two interesting breweries welcome football fans and other visitors. The Titletown Brewing Company and Badger State Brewing both offer a wide variety of local seasonal beer with clever names and many fun spaces where individuals or groups can consume them.
The CVB’s Ulatowski is confident that planners will be surprised by the variety available in Green Bay. “We have a wonderful convention package and great hotel facilities,” she said. “We’re a safe and affordable community compared to many places and offer amenities you usually only find in larger cities.”