Playing outside Lambeau: Checking out the Titletown district during Winter

As someone who loves to go out and enjoy Wisconsin winters, I like to see what opportunities are available during them. The new Titletown district in Green Bay has the potential to provide Winter Cities opportunities for residents of that city and for tourists. So I appreciated the chance to check it out, the same week it opened, while attending a Packer game last weekend. (As I have written about earlier, just attending a game at Lambeau is a pretty interesting example of outdoor winter fun, in its own right!) The most striking winter feature of Titletown is a hill for tubing, but the skating, restaurant, and other features also make this an enjoyable winter-outdoors destination.

The Tubing Hill

This is clearly the most striking feature. It serves as a symbol for Titletown – and for winter recreation. Well-lit, this is what attracts one’s eye. (Along with the nearby hotel, the Lodge Kohler). It looked like a fun, fast-paced ride!

We arrived at Ariens Hill at around 5:30, before a game that started at 7:30. When we walked by the start of the line, there was an hour-long wait to ride down. I don’t know how many people will be willing to wait that long in line before future games; but I could see a steady supply of people arriving to make use of it. (Heck, people stand in parking lots for hours tailgating; standing in line for an hour to ride down doesn’t seem that unusual compared to that.)

The hill has two lanes. Usually, two riders were sent down at roughly the same time, enabling a bit of a ‘racing’ feel. I am not sure how much control a rider has, but it did look fun to travel down at a good speed – this is a pretty sharp slope. The hill is long enough to provide a decent-length ride.

We were lucky enough to see Packers CEO Mark Murphy walk by, and he was asked if he had been down the hill. He said he had (see video here!) and found it tricky to ride down straight, since bumping into an edge turns the tube. That sounds like a representative experience; most of the riders I saw did seem to come down sideways or backwards.

This is a fast-paced ride down the hill, so the hill has been designed to slow down riders at the end. Strips have been placed across the lanes near the end, where the lanes slope slightly up, in order to slow down tubers. Tubes are returned to the top via a conveyor system; the riders we saw, on the other hand, needed to climb stairs in order to ride.

At $3 a ride, this feels like a reasonably-priced activity before a Packer game. After all, people come prepared to spend a lot on food, tickets, and more at these events. I would also guess that many winter tourists to Lambeau during non-game days might choose to drop by for a ride or two. On the other hand, I am not so sure how this will work on an everyday basis for locals.

When I was a child, a favorite Green Bay activity was to ride down the big slide at Bay Beach. So this felt like a familiar Green Bay activity to me. It looked like a good ride; and having the riders as the centerpoint of this winter activity district seems a good idea, given their visibility, and the drama of their speed.

The Broader Titletown Experience

There are a decent amount of winter activities one can choose from. Furthest away from Lambeau is a football field. It was oddly empty, I thought. (Perhaps in the future, more people will realize there is a field over here, and carry a football over to use on it.) We were entertained by watching a handful of people fail miserably at attempts to kick a field goal 😉 (I actually wouldn’t recommend doing that, since one’s ball could easily end up lost behind a fence.)

There is a playground next to the field which looks pretty nice – but it was fenced off and closed, apparently for the winter.

There are a good number of outdoor seats here. Despite the big number of fans, these chairs didn’t get a lot of use. (More people preferred to stand in the parking lot, apparently.) I did enjoy sitting on them – a nice place to watch others taking part in winter recreation!

An outdoor fire, and nice overall lighting, give this the feel of a downtown winter park. I enjoyed being there; it looked pleasing, felt nice, and felt active.

They had some carved ice pieces on tables, which people could play with by stacking up. (And a ‘Sunday Night Football’ ice sculpture fans could pose by.) That appeared to be an area that is underutilized; perhaps they will come up with more ideas in the future. I enjoyed using the ice bricks. However, by the time I used them, enough were chipped that it was difficult to build anything too high. One table did have a pretty impressive sculpture… until a boy tried to add on to it, and it all fell over. I suspect some of the bricks were damaged in that fall (and other falls), making it more difficult for future would-be sculptors to build something comparable. (Apparently, it was easier to build taller sculptures earlier in the day.)

We stopped at the restaurant located under the hill, 46 Below, largely because we could order salad and soup there (it is hard to find healthy or light food options in this area). I was quite happy I did, particularly since the windows provided such a great view of Titletown – the skating path in particular! (The restaurant seemed overwhelmed or understaffed at this time; I imagine the atmosphere is more relaxed at other times.) This really feels like an excellent location to have a meal, or coffee, and sit and warm up with a wonderful view of the outside activity.

Skating appeared to be the true activity center. A good number of people were skating; and skating well, from what I saw. The price was reasonable for Lambeau activities. This winding skatepath was a nice counterpart to the hill. When next to those activity areas, one feels like one is a part of a lively outdoor community.

 

A Winter City destination?

The Titletown District looks like a great idea to test, in this atypical location. Green Bay is not a large city, but it has one major tourist draw – Lambeau Field. Adding additional attractions in the Lambeau area sounds like a good idea. I think this attraction in particular could be a good way to use this space during winter. (The Winter Cities Institute is the key organization spreading word about how actively designing cities to provide opportunities for residents to enjoy themselves in winter can benefit those residents.)

On this visit, the outdoor Titletown activities drew a decent crowd; but the Lambeau parking lot, the bars, Kroll’s drew bigger crowds. The Hinterland brewery in Titletown appeared more crowded than the outdoor activities were. Will more people make this a part of their Lambeau experience now that they know it is here, and can plan for it – or will numbers go down as the novelty wears off?

That said, this is the ‘Packer district.’ This doesn’t enliven the downtown, or really connect to other parts of town. Residential areas largely surround this district. I am not sure how often people might walk (or drive) from neighboring subdivisions to come over and use the tubing hall, skating area, and so on. (It is possible that families, or couples on dates, might find this even more enjoyable than Packer fans do.) So I am not sure what it will contribute to the vicinity. These attractions largely function like a typical urban park would, but perhaps made more financially viable by having tourists also use them. (It also looks like Titletown will make the Lambeau area a more popular destination in other seasons as well, although I was unable to find out how skating area and hill will be used in summer.)

My first impression is that this is a great effort to make Green Bay more of a Winter City – to help Wisconsin residents get outside, and enjoy opportunities which winter offers!

Photographs by and copyright Matt Filipiak.

 

 

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About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at ambassadorofsnow@gmail.com.
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