TTZ: Don Beebe
Club Level: Bernardo Harris
During the late 1960’s, Mr. Bill Brault, a local restaurateur and executive director of the Green Bay Area Visitor and Convention Bureau, conceived an idea of starting a museum dedicated to the history of the Green Bay Packers - a Hall of Fame - as a perfect way to demonstrate the community’s pride in the Packers tradition, as well as providing the community with a terrific tourist attraction. Visitor surveys were indicating that visitors to the Green Bay area wanted to learn more about the history and tradition of the Green Bay Packers. He decided to approach Green Bay Packers Head Coach and General Manager Vince Lombardi to ask his permission to start a museum dedicated to the Green Bay Packers.
In 1967, the Hall of Fame started out as a temporary display set up in the concourse of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena for three summer months each year. In 1970, what was at the time called the “Packers Hall of Fame Association” held its first induction banquet, honoring eight Packers legends from the 1920’s. That first class of inductees into the Hall included the names of Bernard Darling, Lavvie Dilweg, Jug Earp, Cal Hubbard, Earl “Curly” Lambeau, Verne Lewellen, Johnny “Blood” Mc Nally and Mike Michalske.
Both the Hall of Fame display and the induction banquet were quick successes. Tens of thousands of people visited the Hall of Fame display during the summer months of the early 1970s.
The Hall of Fame Association then set its sights on having a permanent museum in its own building, to be open year around. A joint venture between the Green Bay Packers and Brown County led to the building of a permanent Packers Hall of Fame as an addition to the Brown County Veteran’s Memorial Arena.
The 17,000 square foot Packers Hall of Fame was dedicated on July 12, 1976 by the late President Gerald R. Ford, who had once turned down an offer to try out for the Packers in order to attend Yale University. During its first year, the new Packers Hall of Fame welcomed more than 60,000 visitors from many parts of the country and world.
In 1981, the Hall of Fame opened a new 7,000 square foot addition, financed through generous contributions from the Green Bay Packers organization, the business community, and individual fans. In 1985, additional fund raising efforts collected $42,000 as 42 individuals, including many former Packers greats and corporations, paid
$1,000 each to autograph the world’s largest football as part of ‘The Receiver’.
A $750,000 renovation was completed in 1990. Another $150,000 investment in 1994 added hands-on audio and video equipment, enabling fans to take part in the action.
In 1996, over 160,000 fans passed through the Hall’s doors, surpassing the previous year by 60%. That season, the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI, giving another boost to the museum.
As a result of this attendance record - combined with the need for more space - the Packers Hall of Fame Inc., Board of Directors gave approval for a $1.6 million facelift for the Hall in late January of 1997. The total project added and remodeled 21,000 square feet to the existing 17,000 square foot museum. This major addition was completed on July 2, 1997.
The year 1997 proved even better for attendance at the Hall of Fame as over 259,000 fans toured the shrine. This figure surpassed the attendance of Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, which was at that time 198,451.
In 1999 Packers President Bob Harlan approached the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Inc., Board of Directors on moving the Hall to the newly renovated and expanded Lambeau Field atrium. After much discussion the move was approved. On December 30, 2002 the ‘Old Hall of Fame’ closed its doors and the ‘New Hall of Fame’ opened in September of 2003.
Today the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame continues to serve Packers fans around the world celebrating 13 World Championships which includes 4 Super Bowl victories!