GREEN BAY - A risky season is ahead for the National Football League and the Green Bay community if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached.
The current contract between the NFL owners and the players union ends in March, and the owners want a deal that gives them more money. Without a new deal in place players expect to be locked out.
Every time a regular season game takes place at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers generate more than $12 million in local spending. The Packers commissioned their own study to put a dollar figure on its worth in the area. So if the NFL owners were to lock out players due to a contract dispute over money, the Green Bay area stands to lose a lot.
"Everybody wants every cent they can get. It has to do with the "G" word - greed," said Jerry Watson.
Watson spent 17 years building his business around the Green Bay Packers. At any given home game, his Stadium View Bar and Grill on Holmgren Way sells some 400 cases of beer. The eight regular season games and two preseason games played at Lambeau bring him 33 percent of his income for the entire year.
"Yeah I would say a third is real close without that third I'd still be driving a truck for Yellow freight," said Watson. "Any of these businesses are here because of the Green Bay Packers."
Hotels around Brown County do their best business on Packers weekends. Not only do some hotels sell out for games, they're also able to boost rates.
And the most money to be pumped into the local economy is to be made not during a single month in the regular season, but in August when Packers hype is non-stop.
"We have two preseason games, Packers Family Night and also training camp, and all together there's probably a direct spend of more than $25 million. If there was some sort of stoppage or we lost a part of that month probably from a visitors standpoint one of the best months of the year," said Brad Toll, president of the Green Bay Area Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"We also think it would be better for everybody, fans included, hotel owners, restaurant owners players and owners to get an agreement sooner rather than later.
The financial losses from a player lockout would hit hardest in August, but the financial damages during an already troubled economy would mount if the entire season were lost.
"We know that every city that continues to fight out of this recession can barely afford a $140 million of lost jobs and revenue if this lockout occurs," said DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association.
And being the smallest city in the league makes any dollars lost stand out in the Green Bay area that much more.
"I'm very sensitive to the fact because of size of community not having Packer games would have relatively greater impact," said Murphy.
Packers President Mark Murphy has been involved in two work stoppages, as a player representative for the Redskins in 1982 and while working for the players' union in 1987. He says in a work stoppage, every community suffers.
Now he's involved on the owner's side, representing the Green Bay Packers.
"I've seen things from both perspectives and I think we can reach an agreement," said Murphy.
And yet both the owners and the players are gearing up for a fight. Both sides are setting aside cash, and the players union is telling its members to save their money.
"That's what me and my CPA (are) doing right now - we're finding ways to save more money," said Brandon Jackson, a running back for the Packers.
"We realize how much this means and affects not only us but this community, so we thank you for your support. Stand with us. It's going to be a tough fight," said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a rally of fans in Ashwaubenon last month.
Players are happy with the current deal involving the split of revenue with NFL owners, who say they need more to compete.
"It seems to me the greatest gift we could possibly give is a Christmas gift where we sign a new deal and tell people football for our fans is not only going to continue but the businesses that rely on football, the jobs this game generates, are going to be secure," said Smith.
Stadium View owner Jerry Watson says that would be a nice gift. But he's preparing for the worst.
"You put some money away and you say, 'oh boy, I wish they were playing football,'" said Watson.
The Green Bay Packers players voted last month to allow the union to decertify, like other teams in the league. Decertification would allow the union a chance to sue under antitrust laws if there is a lockout. NFL owners plan to meet again next month in Dallas.
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