GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers re-dedicated the plaza on the north end of Lambeau Field to long-time Packers executive Bob Harlan Wednesday afternoon.
"This marvelous plaza at Lambeau Field, with my name on it, I'm deeply honored, and I'm deeply grateful. Thank-you very much," said Harlan.
It is the second time Harlan attended his own plaza dedication ceremony falling under the watchful eyes of statues of team founder, former player and coach Curly Lambeau and coach Vince Lombardi statues. The plaza bore his name from 2003 until earlier this year when construction work tore up one of the more photographed areas of the stadium.
Nearly 200 people – from construction workers, to Packers employees, fans and even Packers head coach Mike McCarthy – showed up to get a sneak peek at the plaza honoring Harlan.
"Lambeau Field and its rich tradition have always been very, very important to me,” said Harlan. “I love what it stands for. This is where Vince Lombardi's teams played and practiced."
Harlan served in various roles with the Packers over his 37-year tenure, most recently serving as the team chairman from 2007-2008, until he retired with “chairman emeritus” status.
He has long been credited for leading the team to success in the early 1990s, with the hiring of general manager Ron Wolf, coach Mike Holmgren, quarterback Brett Favre and defensive end Reggie White.
Harlan was also behind securing the team’s long-term future, overseeing the 1997 stock sale that raised more than $20 million, as well as launching a nearly $300 million redevelopment plan, spurred by the Brown County stadium tax. It paid the way for the renovations in 2000 – making the stadium what it is today.
"And I'm thankful to say that 14 years later, the stadium has done just exactly what we hoped it would do," said Harlan. "What a great honor it was to be a part of this wonderful story."
Years later, the stadium tax is still in place; but it is set to expire next year. No tax dollars were spent on this recent $166 million roundof renovations, including the plaza.
"The main purpose here is to really pay tribute to Bob Harlan for all that he's done for the Packers,” said Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy. “He's really been so instrumental success that the Packers have enjoyed."
Harlan plaza 2.0 includes more seating, a pedestrian ramp, stairway, and landscaping that includes 13 birch trees, for as many championships.
“And we have left room for 14, 15 and on and on," said Murphy
The plaza is still outside of the Lambeau Field atrium, but it moved northwest from its previous location, and is about 20 feet lower in the ground. To accomplish that, Murphy says 50,000 cubic yards of dirt were removed; that equates to about 2,200 dump truck loads.
For some Packers fans, they say the plaza is something any football fan will love.
"It just puts goose pimples on your skin, this is fantastic," said Bill Horn, who lives in Darboy.
"He did a lot for the Packer organization,” said Ginger Kerkhoff of Harlan’s legacy on the team.
"I think the people that had to pay the sales tax in Brown County, I think – in the long-run – they're going to be glad and happy that they did it," said Kerkhoff’s husband Gary.
The plaza is not open to the public, yet. That's expected to happen next week, when the new pro shop opens.