GREEN BAY – Nonprofit groups could lose nearly $2 million if Lambeau Field remains closed to Green Bay Packers fans for the season.
Volunteers from 98 nonprofit organizations that operated concessions at Lambeau Field last season brought in a combined $1.8 million for their groups. This year, it’s possible most of them will receive nothing.
The Packers will play their first two home games this season, on Sunday against the Detroit Lions and on Oct. 5 against the Atlanta Falcons, without fans. If fans are allowed into Lambeau Field for the remaining six games, the Packers will cap attendance at 12,000, and it could be fewer than that.
“This year, possibly we could have six games, or more if there are playoffs. But with the lack of number of people, it’s not really going to be worth it, but we will still do it,” said Mary Katers, volunteer coordinator for Fighting Cancer with Grace. “Something is better than nothing.”
The nonprofits that run the concession stands at Lambeau field keep a percentage of the sales. That income pays for a wide range of activities. For example:
- Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Green Bay allows volunteer parents of students at Green Bay Trinity Lutheran School and at N.E.W. Lutheran High School to put money toward tuition. The group contributes to the congregational budget, as well.
- Scout Troop 1477 based at Peace Lutheran Church in Pittsfield raises money to help scouts pay for summer camp and equipment. Money also goes to support Eagle Scout projects.
- The money earned by Racine Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps makes up one-third of the yearly budget for the oldest continuously active junior drum and bugle corps in the country.
- And 13-year-old Grace Fuss of De Pere uses most of the money raised by Fighting Cancer with Grace volunteers to make care packages for cancer patients. Some also goes to student volunteers from Calvary Lutheran Church in Green Bay.
The amounts raised can be considerable. Fighting Cancer with Grace operates three adjacent stands and received more than $65,000 last season. Our Saviour Lutheran, which operates Melotte Marketplace on the fourth floor of the Lambeau Atrium, received about $55,000.
“That’s a good chunk of change,” said Neil Burmeister, Packers volunteer coordinator for Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Green Bay.
Groups have already adjusted. Racine Scouts received about $20,000 last year, which went to daily expenses and equipment.
“We are not spending any money on anything. We are just trying to get by. We had money in savings we put aside from each game for a rainy day fund,” said Randall Chaffee, executive director of Racine Scouts.
The loss of income means parents working to put aside money for children’s activities will have to dig into their own pockets to make up the difference. Scott Ascher of Scout Troop 1477 said families might have to come up with about $400 to cover summer camp and additional supplies and equipment.
“We do not have troop tents, cots, etc. All that is on the family. That’s money the fundraisers help pay for on the family’s behalf,” he said.
Some groups have other sources of income, although that’s not always a solution, either. Racine Scouts hosts year-round bingo in addition to working Packers games, and bingo only just started up again after shutting down in March. Even now, with groups limited to 75 or fewer, it’s not the usual source of income.
Packers games with limited attendance would be challenging, Burmeister said.
“If you do only let 10% percent of people in stands, it would be hard to know how much food you’d need and how much money you would make,” he said. “I’m sure the church is going to have to find alternate ways to compensate for it. They’ll probably have to dig into the coffers a little bit.”
None of the groups are ready to bail, however. Our Saviour Lutheran has been at it 30-plus years. Katers, who coordinated for Calvary Lutheran Church in Green Bay before staying on with Fighting Cancer with Grace, completed her 25th year, and Racine Scouts completed seven years last season.
“We try to make it as fun as we can,” said Katers, whose group operates one of two soup concessions in Lambeau. “I think we’ve grown into our little niche. Fans know us and they come back. It helps that we have soup. In the winter months, we blow through so much soup.”
Fighting Cancer with Grace was started by 13-year-old Grace Fuss, whose mother had breast cancer. She recognized how devastating that was to her family and started creating care packages for families and doing other things to help bring them together.
Chaffee, whose drum and bugle corps operates the only hot sandwich concession, also said it was fun, even when his group has to make the 2½ hour trip for night games.
“The night games are the worst,” he said. “But we do enjoy going up there, seeing the game, meeting the people. It’s surprising how many people aren’t from the United States.”
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Nonprofit groups stand to lose nearly $2 million with no fans at Lambeau Field