Rockwood Lodge was the training facility of the Green Bay Packers from 1946 through 1949. Originally built in 1937 as a retreat for a local Norbertine Order, the Lodge was purchased by Packers coach and general manager Curly Lambeau in 1943 and then heavily renovated to serve as the Packers training facility, making it the first self-contained training facility in pro football history. Although the facility was state-of-the-art at the time, many members of the Packers franchise and local fans complained of its large cost, distance from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and its poor practice field. The Lodge burned down in 1950, with the likely cause being faulty electrical wiring or lightning. The Packers received $75,000 in insurance money from the fire, which would be used to help reestablish the Packers long term financial security. Lambeau resigned from the Packers just a week after the fire. The Rockwood Lodge site would go on to be purchased by Brown County, Wisconsin and developed into a public park.
Rockwood Lodge was built in 1937 as a retreat for the Norbertine Order, whose abbey was located in nearby De Pere. It was located approximately 17 miles (27 km) north of the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, on 53-acre (210,000 m2) of land sitting on a limestone bluff overlooking the eponymous Green Bay. The lodge itself was a stone and timber, cross-shaped mansion that comprised 40 rooms, including a large lobby and fireplace. The Norbertines built a boat dock, tennis courts, a baseball field, and an amphitheater at the estate. The facility was rented for weddings or other public events.
Green Bay Packers
From 1935 to 1947, the Packers hosted their training camp at Pinewood Lodge, a resort in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. However, Packers coach and general manager Curly Lambeau had a desire to develop a training facility where his players and their families could live together for the entire season. He had been infatuated with Rockwood Lodge and in 1946 convinced the Packers board of directors to authorize the purchase of the estate for $32,000, which at the time was a significant amount of money for the Packers. They also authorized an additional $12,000 for renovations and the construction of cottages for players' families. The renovations made the Lodge "a state-of-the-art football facility complete with lockers, classrooms, dorms and a restaurant-quality kitchen." It is also considered to be the first self-contained training facility in pro football history.
The Lodge was widely praised by those who were connected to the Packers. The facility provided free housing for players and their families, strengthened team chemistry, However, the facility was not without controversy. Many players complained that the practice field was extremely hard and led to multiple injuries. This hardness was caused by the location of the Lodge and practice field on a granite bluff above Lake Michigan. Many team executives also thought the cost of the facility and renovations were exorbitant, considering the purchase price was 25% of the team's yearly operating budget. Lastly, many fans were disappointed at the distance from Green Bay to Rockwood Lodge and missed seeing the players and practices in town. The facility also proved to be a severe drain on the Packers' finances, who were also facing poor on-field performance and a possible merger with the All-America Football Conference that many feared would lead the team folding or being moved to another market.
After only three seasons, on January 24, 1950, Rockwood Lodge, empty except for a caretaker and his family, burned down. The family was unharmed, but the building completely burned except for the stone walls. Everything in the building except a coach and a photo of Curly Lambeau, including all of the caretaker's possessions, was destroyed. The building's large wood roof, cellulose insulation, and heavy winds all contributed to the destruction. The cause of the fire was never ascertained for certain, although wiring or a lightning strike was suspected. Due to the Packers' financial woes and the lack of a clear cause of the fire, rumors quickly spread that someone linked with the team deliberately set the fire for the insurance money. These rumors still persist, however they have been debunked based on interviews with the caretaker's family and team officials.
A number of consequences resulted from the fire. First, the insurance money ended up providing a significant boost to the team's financial outlook. Instead of rebuilding the facility, the team used the insurance money, funds from a special Thanksgiving Day intra-squad game, and a stock drive to return the team to profitability. Second, Lambeau resigned his position with the Packers about a week after the fire and moved to Chicago to coach the Cardinals. Lastly, after the fire, the Packers moved their training camp to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, from 1950 through 1953. They then moved to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, from 1954 to 1957 before switching to St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, where they train to this day[update].
Bay Shore Park
After sitting dormant for a number of years, the area comprising Rockwood Lodge was purchased from the Packers by Brown County, Wisconsin. The county had been awarded $33,500 in 1968 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help develop a new county park. Bay Shore Park opened in 1974, although some boating facilities and parking would go on to be developed later in the mid-1970s. The park includes campgrounds, picnic areas, a playground, trails, and parking. The park's boat facilities include a ramp, a breakwater, and docks. Although little remains from the Packer years, the park still hosts Packers-related activities.
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