GREEN BAY — Calling the club “a very financially stable organization” — something that couldn’t always be said during some fiscally challenging eras of the Green Bay Packers’ storied history — team president and CEO Mark Murphy unveiled yet another in-the-black balance sheet to reporters on Wednesday.
And while Murphy joked that the yearly get-together with reporters — which the team holds in advance of its annual shareholders meeting, slated for July 24 this year — would be a lot like the last several have been, Murphy quickly added, “But that’s a good thing, because that means we’re having success on the field as well as off.”
For the fiscal year from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017, the Packers showed $72.8 million in net income — an increase of 48.7 percent largely attributable to accounting procedures that led to what the team said is its $27.1 million share of relocation fees being counted in this year’s balance sheet, even though the annual payments will run from 2020 through 2029. In just over a year, the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers moved to Los Angeles while the Oakland Raiders announced their plans to move to Las Vegas.
“Because of that you saw almost a 50 percent increase in our net income,” Murphy said.
Once teetering on the brink of major money problems before Brown County voters approved the Lambeau Field redevelopment project that was completed in 2003, the Packers haven’t faced any real financial uncertainty since the current collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players’ Association, ratified in 2011, went into effect.
This marks the seventh year of the 10-year agreement between owners and the NFLPA. Some long-term questions loom — including whether the income from lucrative TV contracts, the most crucial part of the league’s revenue-sharing program, will continue to rise when those deals expire in 2021-22.
“I think the consistent success we’ve had on the field — eight straight years in the playoffs, the type of fan support we have — is crucial to our success,” Murphy said. “I think we’re a very financially stable organization.”
Although the team’s profit from operations dropped 12.9 percent to $65.4 million, Murphy pointed to an increase in player costs and depreciation for the dip.
While the team has an NFL-mandated salary cap each year, player costs for each year vary based on actual cash payouts, and the Packers signed franchise left tackle David Bakhtiari to a four-year, $48 million extension in September that included more than $16 million in guaranteed money and made him the fourth-highest paid left tackle in the league at the time. Then, they signed outside linebacker Nick Perry, the team’s leader in sacks last season, to a five-year, $60 million deal in March that included $18 million in guarantees.
Showing $441.4 million in total revenue — up 8 percent — the team took in $197.4 million in local revenue, an increase of $11.3 million. Despite being the smallest market in American pro sports, the team has built its local revenue by capitalizing on the allure of its storied stadium, where Hall of Fame and stadium tours continue to be wildly popular, and a very successful pro shop with huge online sales.
“The Atrium renovation continues to serve us well,” Murphy said.
While sold-out games remain a given with a team that has 131,000 names on its season-ticket waiting list, sponsorship revenues continue to grow as well.
“There are a lot of companies that want to be associated with our brand,” said Paul Baniel, the team’s longtime vice president of finance and administration.
The team has also aggressively built other revenue streams, including the new Titletown district and the new Tailgate Village, a game-day gathering place and event space built in the stadium’s east parking lot where a temporary structure once stood, as well as holding non-Packers game events at Lambeau Field, such as the University of Wisconsin-LSU game last September and a Billy Joel concert last month.
Titletown’s three anchor tenants — Hinterland Brewery, which opened in April; Lodge Kohler, which has a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week; and Bellin Health Titletown sports medicine clinic — will all be open for business by month’s end.
Portions of the park and full-length football field will open before the team’s Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Seattle, with a sledding hill and ice-skating rink coming online in November.
Phase II of the project, which will include residential townhouses and a mix of entertainment, dining and retail shops, is in the final planning stages.
“Obviously we’re very excited about it, something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Murphy said. “We really see it as building on the success of the renovation of Lambeau. We view Titletown as an investment in the community.”
Murphy wouldn’t confirm or deny rumors that the Badgers will face Notre Dame at Lambeau Field in 2020 — “I can’t comment on that yet,” he replied when asked about the potential matchup — but the team remains committed to having at least one event, be it a concert or non-Packers football game — at the stadium each offseason.
“One of our main goals as an organization — and it hasn’t been an issue in a while — is to make sure the team stays in Green Bay. And you go back in the history of the Packers, that was in question (at times),” Murphy said. “One of the ways to make sure we continue to have success in Green Bay is make sure we have a strong local economy. Hopefully some of the investments we’ve made in Titletown will make sure the economy here remains strong and vibrant.”