Stadium continues to pay off

More than 20,000 Green Bay Packers shareholders gathered in Lambeau Field Wednesday morning for the organization's annual meeting. It marked the first time since 1998 that the meeting has been held in the refurbished stadium, which has helped the Packers remain among the top organizations in the league financially.

The Green Bay Packers may have struggled on the field last year, but financially the team was among the best in the National Football League during the past fiscal year. It was only appropriate that about 20,000-plus shareholders gather today in Lambeau Field, the renovated stadium that has helped the team remain competitive among deep-pocketed owners scattered throughout the league.

Team treasurer Larry Weyers reported that the Packers ranked 11th in the league in total revenue during the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2006. The team would not have ranked that high if not for the recent, $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field.

Though the Packers' profits from operations for the recent fiscal year were $20.9 million, or 38 percent less than the $33.7 million earned in the previous fiscal year, the team increased its local revenues by $4 million to $93 million. Revenue generated by stadium-related events, the Packers Pro Shop, Packer Hall of Fame and Stadium Tours, and other Atrium-related business were the main reasons for the increase.

"The new Lambeau Field is performing financially just as the Packers organization proposed," Weyers reported to shareholders. "As a year-round destination, it has become a great source of value for this community."

Like past years, television revenue continues to be the biggest source of revenue. Total operating income increased $4.2 percent to a record $208.4 million. The national television contract accounted for $87.3 million, or 41.9 percent of the total operating income. On the flip side of operating income is operating expenses, which increased $21.2 million to $187.5 million. A sizeable portion of the increase was due to the changes that were made with the team's coaching staff in January when Mike Sherman was fired.

The Packers Preservation Fund, established last year by the team, increased by $17.8 million (18.2 percent) to $115.5 million. The reserves are dedicated to sustaining the corporation and for helping the team remain competitive in future seasons.

Because of the Packers top-15 ranking in total revenue, Green Bay will be contributing a greater share of its revenue to the lower 17 teams in the NFL as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The publicly-owned Packers will be challenged financially for years to come, but are in position to remain competitive on the field for the near future thanks to the renovated stadium.

"All we're doing is keeping up with the times, what the game dictates," said Packers Chairman and CEO Bob Harlan. "I keep telling people on the staff, who are younger, a lot younger, that if I took you back 12 years ago and I told you that in the next 12 years we're going to have to leave Milwaukee, we're going to go to two Super Bowls and win one, and that we're going to have to totally redevelop Lambeau Field to remain competitive in the National Football League, I would have thought, ‘Well, that's ridiculous.' But it happened. So, what we're going to face in the next 10 years poses a big question mark. We don't know what the next signing bonus is going to be.

"Our next Collective Bargaining Agreement … I can't tell you how fast the next four years is going to go and what will happen when that comes around. We always say our goal is to take the money we've got and spend it in football. That's why we've got it there, to keep this team among the elite teams in the league."

For now, Weyers left shareholders with an encouraging message: "Packers fans, the Green Bay Packers are, financially, ready to rumble," Weyers said.

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