SBJ/June 5 - 11, 2000/No Topic Name

Packers play the poverty card

Just as the Green Bay Packers kick off a summer lobbying campaign for public funds to renovate Lambeau Field, team officials are painting a bleak financial picture of the NFL's sole publicly held franchise.

The Packers won't officially release their finances until July, but Packers Vice President John Jones said the franchise had an operating loss of $419,000 for the fiscal year ended March 31, compared with an operating profit of $7 million a year earlier. The team also had a negative cash flow of $7 million, compared with a negative cash flow of $154,000 a year ago.

Though the Packers have a negative cash flow and an operating loss, the team expects to have a profit because of the player bonuses that have been deferred over a number of years.

The operating loss and negative cash flow have caused the Packers to dip into the team's cash reserves, which declined to $49 million, compared with $52.4 million in 1998. At least $20 million of the team's reserves are earmarked for the planned $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field.

The team won't release its revenue figures until it mails its annual report to shareholders in late June, but officials said the Packers have dropped to 17th of the 31 NFL teams in overall revenue. Two years ago, the Packers said they were ninth in the league in revenue, and last year the team was 15th with $102 million in revenue.

"It's a reflection of the current economics of the NFL," Jones said. "The Packers need a renovation of Lambeau Field to move into the mainstream of the NFL economy. Costs are driven by teams that have new stadiums."

The Packers' declining finances come during the team's campaign to win support for public funding for the renovation of Lambeau Field, which would boost stadium capacity from 60,790 to 66,000 and add cash-generating luxury seating and a retail complex. Taxpayers will vote this fall on whether to approve funding for the renovation, and the Packers are pointing to the operating loss to illustrate the need for an improved Lambeau Field. The team is asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax in Brown County to finance $160 million of the $295 million cost.

"We are not proud to present the financial picture, but it does show that the problem exists," Packers President Bob Harlan said. "What's alarming is how fast we are slipping. Five and six years ago, we were in two Super Bowls and were ninth in league revenues, but teams with new stadiums are jumping all over us."

Harlan predicts that without a renovated stadium, the team's cash reserves will be depleted by 2005.

"Then we are into negative cash reserves," he said. "It all revolves around stadium issues. Other than the television money, the stadium is the next best source of revenue."

If the public funding is approved by taxpayers, renovation of Lambeau Field is scheduled to be finished by 2003, but Harlan said the team will begin to see incremental financial improvements next year.

"We'll start adding revenue after 2001, and if we can move forward on schedule, we can stop the slide," he said.

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Green Bay Packers, NFL

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