Future bright in Green Bay
Flush with cash, the Packers have a 112,000 name-long waiting list for season tickets filled with die-hards eager to see a team that figures to be an NFC contender for years to come.
Under a bright blue sky, Green Bay team brass gave shareholders a rosy forecast Thursday for the future of the NFL's only publicly-owned franchise.
About the only thing missing from this green-and-gold picture was former star Brett Favre swaggering on to the Lambeau Field turf to toss around a football with current franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Soon enough, that might just happen, too.
Team President Mark Murphy reiterated that he is hoping Favre returns to Lambeau Field for a game this year, though not to retire his No. 4 jersey just yet.
“Well, our hope is coming back from (2016) he'll be a first-ballot inductee” to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Murphy told reporters after addressing the more than 14,700 fans attending the annual shareholders meeting. “Prior to that we'd want to induct him into our hall and then also retire his number.”
Favre had a public falling out with the team's front office in 2008 in the middle of a “will-he-or-won't-he-retire saga. The Packers traded him to the New York Jets, and he later played two more seasons for the rival Minnesota Vikings.
The sides have made efforts to mend the relationship with Favre firmly in retirement. Murphy for years has said he hopes to retire Favre's jersey, and a possible reunion is usually a popular offseason topic in Packers country.
The prospect of returning to Lambeau arose again when Favre told ESPN radio in Chicago on Monday that he wasn't concerned about being booed at Lambeau, following a separate report to the contrary.
“I'm very hopeful that when he does come back that he will be fully, fully supported by our fans. I'm confident in that,” Murphy said. “In terms of when he would come back, we've had ongoing discussions with him, very good relations. We are talking about bringing him back for a game this year.”
Franchise leaders dressed in business attire offered boardroom-like reports—complete with slideshow presentations displayed on the stadium's two giant video boards—to shareholders dressed in Packers gear. One man wore a yellow foam cheesehead with “NFL Owner” etched on the side in green.
The Packers have more than 360,000 shareholders, and a lot of them figure to be in town this weekend. Players report to training camp Friday and the first practice is Saturday.
“We don't predict at this event,” general manager Ted Thompson said in giving his department report, “but we do expect to win.”
The team has reported that its revenue rose 5 percent to a record $324 million, though net income is down to $25 million because of an expected spike in player costs, including salaries. The Packers re-signed Rodgers and star linebacker Clay Matthews in 2013.
The team expects player costs to decline next season given the normal ebbs and flows of contract cycles. Regardless, there appears little to worry about financially: John Meng, of the board's investment committee, reported corporate reserves of about $271 million in 2014, up roughly $90 million from 2010.
Only the Packers and Patriots have made the NFL playoffs each of the last five years. Last year's stadium project increased Lambeau's seating capacity to about 80,700—second largest in the league behind MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, yet, the Packers still have a long waiting list for season tickets despite playing in the league's smallest market.
Murphy told shareholders that he expected the Packers to play a game in the next few years in London, where the league plans to play more games anyway.
“But it will be an away game” on the schedule, Murphy said. “We will never take (away) a home game.”
The team is also looking to install a variable pricing ticket system next year. Murphy said about 10 other teams in the league this season are using such a system, which would create tiers of ticket prices based on the attractiveness of the matchup.
The Packers try to keep their ticket prices around the league average. The team said this year they are 17th in the league, at about $80.