Spurred by the completed renovation of legendary Lambeau Field and the ancillary revenues that came from it, the Green Bay Packers posted a 17 percent bump in operating revenue and record profits for the 2004 fiscal year.
Documents released by the NFL's only publicly owned franchise showed that net income for the fiscal year, from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004, rose to $23 million, an increase of 22.3 percent from 2003. Packers officials said the team ranked 10th in the league in terms of operating revenue, at $179.1 million, and Green Bay certainly is one of the NFL's most profitable franchises.
It marks the second year in a row that the Packers, performing in the league's smallest market, ranked 10th in operating revenue. Green Bay had slipped to 20th in 2002, after being ninth as recently as 1998.
Team treasurer John R. Underwood acknowledged that Packers' operating revenue had been decreasing "precipitously," and suggested that the club was headed for "financial oblivion." Said Underwood: "We knew that we were going to have to do something."
The answer in large part, the 2004 documents indicate, was the renovation project on Lambeau Field. By constructing The Atrium, an area that hosts the team's Pro Shop and restaurants and which can be used for banquets and other special events, Green Bay created a facility that could theoretically produce revenues every day of the year instead of just game days.
The Atrium hosted more than 750 special events in the recently completed fiscal year. In the Pro Shop alone, revenues have increased nearly 250 percent in two years. Another key for the Packers, of course, is that the franchise is not subject to the large debt service fees that burden some teams with new stadiums.
Notable is that fiscal year 2004 includes only seven months in which all the facilities in The Atrium were open for business.
For the Packers, a huge consideration is the "reserve fund," the team's "rainy day" kitty, which has reached $84.5 million now. The oft-stated goal of the team is to someday have the reserve fund equal one year's worth of the football operating budget, which was $113 million last year, since the team does not have a wealthy owner. The reserve also allows the team to fund larger signing bonuses and to remain competitive in terms of acquiring player personnel.
"If you look around the building and across the street at the Hutson Center or whatever, most of these assets are really worth virtually nothing unless there's a National Football League franchise in Green Bay," said Underwood. "So what we're saying is that the real net worth that is really worth something is the corporate reserve account."
Studying the Green Bay ledger also offers some insight into the revenues shared by all 32 NFL franchises. The club got nearly $100 million in leaguewide revenue, including $81.2 million from the network television contracts, so the other 31 franchises received similar amounts over the past year.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.