Packers cashing in on new Lambeau

During their quest to build a new Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers predicted dire consequences should their referendum to fund the $295 million project fail.

That referendum, of course, passed, and it resulted in a renovated Lambeau Field opening for business last football season. The results have been breathtaking, visually and financially.

The Green Bay Packers have reported a record profit of $20.8 million for the fiscal year, up 34 percent from a year ago, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

The financial windfall means the Packers have $84.5 million in their coffers. Not only is that money available to use for signing bonuses to attract top players, but team treasurer John Underwood says that financial reserve has the Packers near their goal of having enough money available to operate for one year should something dire happen to the club.

"If you were to diagnose the financial health of this company, it is very favorable, very positive," Underwood told The Associated Press.

It's a far cry from four years ago, when the Packers warned they wouldn't be able to compete with the rest of the league without the larger Lambeau Field and all of its year-round money generators located in the atrium. In fact, two years ago, in the last fiscal year without the benefit of any of the Lambeau renovations, the team recorded a $2.8 million profit. The year before that, the team actually lost $419,000.

The team began to reap the benefits of the renovated stadium in the 2003 fiscal year. That resulted in a $15.5 million profit. The 2004 fiscal year, which ended March 31, included the first seven months since the project's completion.

"I can look you in the eye and say I really believe we are good for at least another generation," Underwood said.

The Packers are sending their annual financial report to their 110,000 stockholders. The annual meeting will be held July 28.

Among the revenue highlights:

* The big money-maker is from the television contracts. The Packers received $81.2 million from TV, up from $77.1 million a year ago. While the amount has increased, it represents a decrease in percentage of the team's total revenue, from 50 percent in 2003 to 45 percent in 2004, a sign of what the new Lambeau has meant to the franchise.

* The team earned $26.5 million in revenue for home games, up from $20.5 million. Lambeau's capacity grew to 72,000 because of the renovation.

* The team received $14.1 million from corporate sponsorships and signage, up from $10.5 million.

* The team received a record $16.4 million in revenue from the Packers Pro Shop, up from $11.1 million.

* The team received $3.1 million in revenue from atrium businesses, which include shops, restaurants, spaces to rent for meetings, weddings, etc., and the Hall of Fame.

Among the expense highlights:

* The team spent $96.1 million for player salaries and bonuses, up from $77.9 million from 2003. Those costs are cyclical, Underwood said, and do not represent a trend.

* The team spent $12.9 million to run and maintain the stadium, up from $9.4 million.

* The team spent $15.3 million on administrative costs, down from $16.4 million.

The Lambeau project is being funded primarily by Brown County taxpayers, who are paying $160 million as part of a half-percent sales tax they approved in the referendum.

All of the improvements and extra seating helped the Packers pull in $179.1 million in revenue. That's a 17 percent increase from the $153.2 million from a year ago. Included in the 2004 figure is $30 million in new revenue. That's $7 million more than the team projected. And if that's not good enough news: "I think even next year might be better," said Pat Webb, the executive director of the Green Bay-Brown County Professional Football Stadium District.

The Packers rank 10th in the 32-team league in revenue.

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