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Some Lambeau nostalgia

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by weeds, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. weeds

    weeds Cheesehead

    Dec 9, 2004
  2. weeds

    weeds Cheesehead

    Dec 9, 2004
    ...and here's the story that goes with those pics...

    Before the Packers, Lambeau Field was home to someone else | Postcrescent.com | Appleton Post-Crescent

    [FONT=arial, helvetica]
    [FONT=verdana,arial]October 18, 2009
    [/FONT][FONT=arial, helvetica][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Before the Packers, Lambeau Field was home to someone else[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman, Serif]Son still takes pride that family's farmland became the frozen tundra of NFL legend
    [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]
    By Brett Christopherson
    Post-Crescent staff writer
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]GREEN BAY — Like most who dwell in Cheeseheadville, Don Vannieuwenhoven will clear time to check out today's divisional grudge match between his beloved Green Bay Packers and those woeful Detroit Lions.[/FONT] He[FONT=arial, helvetica] will probably hunker down in a comfortable chair or couch. He will for sure fire up his brand new, 32-inch high-definition flat screen. And he will gladly burn away the ensuing three hours cheering — or, heaven forbid, jeering — the team splashed in forest green and yellow.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]But he will also reminisce. For while the game will be staged inside the Packers' historic home, the plat of earth on which the concrete and steel of Lambeau Field now sits was once his home, too.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"When I drive by the stadium or see it on TV, I get a lot of good feelings," the 74-year-old Vannieuwenhoven said. "It brings back some good, old memories."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]It was Vannieuwenhoven's folks who, in August 1956, paved the way for the jewel of professional football to be built, peddling 50 acres of their coveted farmland to the Green Bay City Council for the grand sum of $73,305 — serious coin in those days.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Thirteen months later, a crowd of more than 32,000 scurried to what had been the Vannieuwenhoven spread to christen City Stadium, as the $960,000 venue was then dubbed, and rally the good guys to a 21-17 season-opening triumph over George Halas and his despised Chicago Bears.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]A promising new beginning, to be sure. But no one could have foreseen the brilliance that was to come.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Lombardi. Holmgren. Starr. Favre. Titletown. A cathedral.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]And what once was an unassuming, family-operated dairy farm was suddenly transformed into a slice of Americana, a shimmering centerpiece for a hallowed franchise whose imposing history even recognizes the Vannieuwenhoven name.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]It's there, on Page 560 in the team's 2009 Media Guide, in a breakout that details the timeline of the stadium's original construction. Vannieuwenhoven's parents, Victor and Florence, are noted to forever link the Packers' proud tradition to an equally proud family.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"They come in and start digging for the stadium, and it's no longer your farm," Vannieuwenhoven said. "You realize it's going to be used for something else. But as far as I'm concerned, it was the perfect spot."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica][SIZE=+2]From pasture to Packers[/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Before Lambeau's sacred soil started sprouting legends, it was used to grow corn and hay and oats, and as pasture land. So the next time you see the clip of Bart Starr slithering across the goal line in the Ice Bowl's waning moments, imagine cornstalks standing in place of the Dallas Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Victor and Florence actually started farming the area in the late 1930s, although the land had been in family hands since 1901.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"It belonged to my dad's parents at one time," Vannieuwenhoven said. "And they gave him 15 acres to start out."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]By the time county officials inquired about purchasing 20 acres for the construction of Brown County Arena — a deal cemented about a year before the city approached with its offer — Victor and Florence had turned those initial 15 acres into a 73-acre expanse that bordered Ridge Road to the west, Lombardi Avenue to the north, Valley View Road to the south and almost out to Holmgren Way to the east.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]To city and county planners and Packers brass, the property was untapped potential and progress. To Victor and Florence, it was location, location, location.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"The price of land was just skyrocketing," said Vannieuwenhoven, a retired plant maintenance manager who lives on Roberts Lake near Wabeno. "The farmers around there at that time were getting up there in age and said, 'To hell with it. We're going to sell.' I'd say 90 percent of the farmers in that area did that. And it was really the start of a big boom in that area.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"That was some really big bucks at that time. But considering what that place is worth now, it's peanuts."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]According to the Packers' media guide, the parcel was chosen because the stadium's architect, Green Bay-based Somerville Inc., liked that it was sloped, which would make it ideal to construct the famed bowl design.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Fifty-three seasons, six NFL championships, 280 consecutive sellouts and a handful of Hall of Famers later, the old piece of farmland is among the most revered in all of sports.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Only the Boston Red Sox (98 years) and Chicago Cubs (96) have longer active homefield tenures in professional sports. In 1999, Sports Illustrated rated Lambeau Field as the eighth-best sporting venue of the 20th century.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"That's quite a thing they built, and then Lombardi came two years later, and that was an unbelievable time," said Art Daley, 93, a former Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor and a longtime Packers observer.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"I live on the west side, about a mile from the stadium, and back in '51, when we built my house, I could look down five, six blocks and see no houses. There was a lot of picnic land — stuff was hardly built on it. I always think I should have gone into the real estate business and bought some of that. It's amazing."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica][SIZE=+2]'A real good feeling'[/SIZE][/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]After selling the 50 acres, Victor and Florence semi-retired and moved to a small hobby farm about five miles away.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Vannieuwenhoven, an only child who was working full time at the plant and helping out on the farm on evenings and weekends, stayed back with his wife and then two children and tended to the remaining unsold three acres that included the single-story, two-bedroom farmhouse he grew up in, a barn and a few other buildings, a garden and a small apple orchard — all situated along Ridge Road, across from where Kroll's West Restaurant now stands.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Those final three acres were sold a few years later — at a more robust $15,000 per acre — as stadium expansion was planned and more parking was needed. The end of one era, you could say, but the continuation of another.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"My folks would sneak over in the evenings and visit us during the construction," Vannieuwenhoven recalled. "And they'd really reminisce and say things like, 'This is where the cows were,' or 'This is where the corn was.' They'd just take a walk and see what was going on when they had the bowl dug out. They made quite a few trips, when no one was around. They still followed the progress."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]Despite that interest, Vannieuwenhoven said neither of his parents — his father passed away in 1979; his mother in 2002 — ever attended a game at the famous stadium they in essence helped build.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"They probably could have gotten three lifetime tickets," he said with a chuckle. "But my dad said it was too much noise. They just enjoyed listening to the games on the radio and watching them on TV."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]As for Vannieuwenhoven, he figures he hasn't attended a game at Lambeau Field in about 12 years, but he considers himself a faithful member of Packers Nation, dutifully following the team from week to week, season to season, legend to legend.[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]And on those occasions he is able to make it back to Green Bay, he will swing past the old homestead, marvel at the fortress rooted in familiar ground and know the land he and his parents once worked, land that still carries their sweat and love, was nurtured into something …[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica]"Mind-boggling," Vannieuwenhoven said. "To me, Lambeau Field is a monument to my parents. And that's a real good feeling when you can actually say you are a part of it."[/FONT]
    [FONT=arial, helvetica][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Additional Facts[/FONT] [/FONT][FONT=arial, helvetica][FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Lambeau Field: A legend is born[/FONT] [/FONT][FONT=arial, helvetica]Proposal: The Green Bay Packers' Fred Leicht, who supervised the 1925 construction of City Stadium, in May 1955 submitted a proposal for a new 32,000-seat facility.
    Referendum: Passed April 3, 1956 (11,575 to 4,893) while community leaders continued to debate over a site.
    Site: In late April 1956 the Packers hired an engineering company to study proposed locations. The company in July 1956 recommended the corner of Highland (now Lombardi) Avenue and Ridge Road.
    Land: Green Bay City Council purchased farmland owned by Victor and Florence Vannieuwenhoven in August 1956 for $73,305.
    Contract: Awarded early in 1957, with groundbreaking soon to come.
    Construction time: No longer than nine months, in time for the '57 opener.
    Cost: $960,000 in municipal bonds; the Packer Corporation paid $634,700 in interest and principal.
    Source: Green Bay Packers 2009 Media Guide

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