As the NFL’s only publicly owned team (in spirit, anyway, because public shares have no value and cannot be traded), the Green Bay Packers have to release their financial records every year, probably to the chagrin of every other NFL owner who would sooner donate every cent to charity than open up their books.
Anyway, the Packers have released their records for fiscal year 2014, and the numbers are staggering. Not only did Green Bay get $226 million as part of the league’s revenue-sharing agreement — in other words, the money paid out to every NFL team — but the team also generated another $149 million in local revenue, a 9.4 percent increase over 2013.
Not bad for a team located in the NFL’s smallest market, by far. As cribbed from Richard Ryman of Press-Gazette Media, here’s how the Packers make all that money. Hint: They’ve become very, very good at separating fans from their money.
1. They get fans to come to Lambeau when football isn’t being played
The Packers Pro Shop opened last July at Lambeau Field and almost immediately paid off, generating more than half the team’s $12.9 million increase in local revenue from 2013 to 2014. It’s 21,500 square feet of Packers merch, roughly the size of your average Pottery Barn or DSW shoe emporium.
And the team store is just one way the team gets fans to come to Lambeau apart the eight days a year when there isn’t any football. The Packers Hall of Fame is scheduled to open later this summer, and the 1919 Kitchen & Tap will open this Friday. Plus, the team charges $12 for adults to take a Lambeau tour, and the team set a record for tour attendance in June.
Oh right, more than 67,000 fans filled Lambeau to watch Brett Favre’s induction into the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday night. And while the proceeds from the ticket sales went to Favre’s charity, all those fans had to eat and drink, right?
2. They’re buying up land around Lambeau Field
Mostly over the last four years, the Packers have bought 64 acres east, west and south of Lambeau, paying $53.7 million. The team intends to oversee commercial development — a Cabela’s outdoors store is the first tenant — to generate non-football income.
“We are continuing to look at ways we can grow revenue. We don’t want to do it on the backs of our season-ticket holders,” team president and chief executive Mark Murphy said, per Ryman. “One way is to attract more visitors.”
3. They keep improving the stadium
After a 2013 renovation added 7,000 seats high above the south end zone, Lambeau Field now seats 80,735 people, the second-largest stadium in the NFL behind MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, which further helped the Packers overcome the fact that their average ticket prices ranked just 18th in the league. Next up is a $55 million renovation of the suites and club seats that “will include windows that open, full-size refrigerators, better concessions equipment and flow, smart TVs and new furniture,” Ryman writes.
In other words, that 115,000-strong Packers season ticket waiting list isn’t going anywhere.