On the Road: Green Bay
Sep 20, 2015, 7:31 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2015, 10:18 am
GREEN BAY – It was at the intersection of Holmgren and Lombardi where I first saw the true significance of Lambeau Field.
That’s not a figure of speech, but an actual intersection because it’s where Holmgren Way crosses Lombardi Way that there’s a sign welcoming you to Green Bay, Wisc., population of 104,057. The stadium two blocks away seats more than 80,000.
Think about that for a second, and you’ll understand just how remarkable it is that the stadium with the second-largest seating capacity in the league is located smack dab in the middle of small-town America.
This is a place where stadium parking means paying to park on someone’s lawn. A location where people will tell you the number of times they’ve been, each visit worth commemorating and where the football team actually belongs to the town. Seriously, the Packers are publicly owned, making them a communal oasis in the modern commercialism of the league.
Most road trips offer an opportunity to see another part of the country. A trip to Green Bay is more like an opportunity for the country to see something that is truly extraordinary in modern American sports.
This wasn’t a road trip so much as a pilgrimage. One that Seattle fans made in a variety of ways whether it was flying to Chicago and driving more than three hours north or landing in Milwaukee or connecting through to Appleton, Wisc. And at this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the fellow in Row 3 on Saturday’s Alaska Airlines Flight 748 from Seattle to Chicago who brought snack-size Skittles for the whole plane.
On Saturday, a group of Seattle fans hung banners from the railing at Miller Park during a baseball game between Milwaukee and Cincinnati, and on Sunday those travelers converged with a Wisconsin crowd that prides itself on being the nicest, most gracious hosts in the NFL. That’s what makes Green Bay truly unique, said Greg Gomoluch.
“It’s the integration of the community,” Gomoluch said.
Gomoluch lives in Mill Creek, and has worked for Boeing for more than 27 years now. He was born in Seattle, but moved to Green Bay where he went to Southwestern High School. He worked at Lambeau Field, selling everything from programs to popcorn, but this weekend he was a tour guide for his friend Mike Ek, whom he calls the biggest Seahawks fan in the world. It might not be much of an exaggeration. Ek stand 6 feet 9.
Ek had his own way of traveling to Green Bay. Namely, he didn’t go home. He attended the season opener at St. Louis and then traveled up to Green Bay for the Week 2 game in the league’s most charming locale.
It’s a milltown where the locals sell their lawns for parking. Like Dave Kessenich, who sells spots in front of his house for $15. You can see the stadium from his home, which can accommodate 36 to 40 cars. He even welcomed Seahawks fans.
“We won’t damage their cars or empty their gas tanks,” he joked.
They’ve been selling spots at the house all the way back to 1983 when his mother-in-law owned it and she told her four grandchildren that they could sell parking and she would put the proceeds toward their college educations.
Just one more small-town touch for this place that is a truly unique big-league setting.