With football season in full swing, thousands of Packers faithful are making their way to Green Bay to catch a game at Lambeau Field, and many of those fans hail from the Milwaukee area.
Most remember that the Packers used to play some of their home games in Milwaukee, but did you know that this tradition went on for over 60 years and was played at four different locations? In fact, the threat of moving the team to Milwaukee permanently was the impetus for the construction of Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
In 1933, 12 years after the Packers joined the National Football League, they played their first home game in Milwaukee at Borchert Field, which was also the only home game played at that location (a mid-season loss to the New York Giants).
Borchert was built in 1888 on a city block bounded by 7th, 8th, Chambers, and Burleigh Streets; it served primarily as a baseball field, where the minor league Milwaukee Brewers played for 50 years. The field also played host to the short-lived Milwaukee Badgers of the NFL from 1922 to '26, where the Packers played as the visiting team for those five seasons.
The next year, Milwaukee home games (generally two per year) were moved to a field set up in the infield of the Milwaukee Mile, located within Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. In 1939, the Packers selected the site over City Stadium in Green Bay as their first to host an NFL Championship game. The Packers won their fifth championship that year, routing the New York Giants, 27-0, after falling to them in the championship game the year prior at Polo Grounds. The Packers went 29-11 over 18 seasons in games played at State Fair Park.
In 1952, the Packers played three games at Marquette Stadium, located near the present site of Marquette High School’s athletic fields at 35th and Clybourn. The stadium was constructed in 1924 for Marquette University’s football team, which folded in 1960. The Packers beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins and lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Milwaukee that year.
From 1953 until 1994, the Packers played three regular season home games annually at newly-opened Milwaukee County Stadium, which was built to host both professional baseball and football.
County Stadium had a significantly greater seating capacity compared to the Packers’ City Stadium in Green Bay, which led to the construction of "new" City Stadium (later named Lambeau Field) in 1957 after NFL owners demanded that the Packers move to Milwaukee full-time unless they construct a larger facility in Green Bay.
The Packers compiled a 75-47-3 record at County Stadium, including a late-December playoff game with a -3 wind chill against the Los Angeles Rams in 1967. Despite the Rams scoring first and the Packers committing four turnovers, the Packers won, 28-7, inching them closer to their second Super Bowl victory three weeks later.
By the 1990’s, County Stadium was outdated. Its capacity was surpassed by Lambeau Field after that stadium underwent a number of expansions, and lacked the luxury boxes that were now available in Green Bay.
As a result, the team began playing all of its home games in Green Bay after a 62-year run in Milwaukee in 1995.
Miller Park, which opened in 2001 as County Stadium’s replacement, was never built to be a multi-sport facility. That, in addition to Lambeau solidifying itself as a premier venue through additional renovations and expansions in recent years, makes it unlikely that the Packers will ever play another game in Milwaukee.
Despite that, the legacy still exists in the form of "Gold Package" home games at Lambeau Field. These games are designated for season ticket holders who previously held tickets to games played at County Stadium; tickets now include one preseason game and two regular season games at Lambeau Field each year.
Two decades after the Packers played their final game in Milwaukee, the city’s relationship with the team remains as strong as ever.
It’s hard to find a bar not packed with green jerseys on game day, and players often visit the city for charity events or downtown nightlife. Recently, the Packers opened a marketing and corporate sales office in Miller Brewing Company’s offices on Milwaukee’s west side in order to work more closely with the many Milwaukee-area companies that support the team. In addition, Milwaukee-based radio station WTMJ still serves as the Packers flagship radio station, a title it has carried since 1929.
As is common with the majority of Wisconsinites, most Milwaukeeans have an undying love for the Packers. But unlike other areas of the state, Milwaukee will always feel like a second home to the boys in green and gold.