Rockwood Lodge

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Rockwood Lodge
Rockwood Lodge is located in Wisconsin
Rockwood Lodge
Rockwood Lodge
Location in Wisconsin
Rockwood Lodge is located in the United States
Rockwood Lodge
Rockwood Lodge
Location in the United States
Address
Coordinates44°38′9.551″N 87°47′49.913″W / 44.63598639°N 87.79719806°W / 44.63598639; -87.79719806Coordinates: 44°38′9.551″N 87°47′49.913″W / 44.63598639°N 87.79719806°W / 44.63598639; -87.79719806
Acreage53
Construction
Opened1947
Demolished1950

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. 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.

History[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

Packers[edit]

A group of Green Bay Packers in uniform standing on a field with Rockwood Lodge in the background
Rockwood Lodge in the late 1940s

Packers head coach Curly Lambeau had been mesmerized by the facility, and bought it for $32,000—an extravagant sum for the time. He then spent $8,000 to heavily renovate it, with a view towards having the entire team and the players' families live at Rockwood throughout the season. After renovations, the complex included player housing and a natural outdoor "amphitheater" in which team meetings were held.

The purchase was not without controversy. Although Lambeau had enjoyed more or less a free hand in the team's day-to-day operations for three decades, several members of the board of directors balked at the purchase price and nearly resigned. Additionally, many Packer fans felt chagrin at having to drive out of town to see team practices.

The facility proved problematic for other reasons as well. Most notably, the brick-hard limestone below the practice fields left the players so battered that Lambeau frequently had to move practices back to City Stadium. The players grew to despise a facility they began calling "the Rock"—a veiled reference to Alcatraz. By some accounts, the fields took so much out of the players that it contributed to the Packers' lackluster 12-10-1 record in the four years after the retirement of star wide receiver Don Hutson—including the team's first losing seasons since 1933. The facility also proved to be a severe drain on the Packers' finances. By the end of the 1949 season, the Packers were gasping, and rumors abounded that the NFL would use the impending merger with the All-America Football Conference as an excuse to contract the team or force it to move. Indeed, Lambeau had found investors willing to pump $50,000 into the team if it changed from public to private ownership—a proposal that many fans felt was a prelude to moving the team to the West Coast.

In 2005, Daniel Flagstad, son of former Rockwood Lodge operators Melvin and Helen Flagstad, donated an authentic Packers #14 jersey worn by Don Hutson to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Flagstad had been given the jersey as a boy in 1946 by the team's equipment manager.[3]

1950 fire[edit]

Rockwood Lodge on fire

On January 24, 1950, Rockwood Lodge burned down.[4] One week later, Lambeau resigned his position with the Packers and moved to Chicago to coach the Chicago Cardinals. The team eventually received $75,000 from its insurance company.[2] The cause of the fire remains unknown to this day, although wiring or a lightning strike was suspected.[5] Rumors have long abounded though that someone linked with the team deliberately set the fire in hopes of using the insurance money to relieve the team's dire fiscal situation. As it turned out, that money was more than enough to solve the franchise's financial woes and keep it in Green Bay.[6]

After Rockwood Lodge, the Packers moved their training camp to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, from 1950 through 1953 and then Stevens Point, Wisconsin, from 1954–57 before settling in at St. Norbert College in De Pere, where they train to this day.

Bay Shore Park[edit]

A trail in a forested area with a rock and wood wall.
A trail in the Bay Shore Park, former site of Rockwood Lodge.

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.[7] Bay Shore Park opened in 1974,[8] although some boating facilities and parking would go on to be developed later in the mid-1970s.[9] The park includes campgrounds, picnic areas, a playground, trails, and parking. The park's boat facilities include a ramp, a breakwater, and docks.[10] Although little remains from the Packer years, the park is still a stop on the Packers Heritage Trail.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fleming, David (September 19, 2013). "Blaze of Glory". ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on September 26, 2018. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Hendricks, Martin (August 18, 2016). "Rockwood Lodge had turbulent history". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Archived from the original on August 24, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  3. ^ Fleming, David (September 19, 2013). "Director's cut: 1950 Packers blaze". ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  4. ^ "Rockwood Lodge Burns to Ground". Marshfield News-Herald. Associated Press. January 25, 1950. p. 12. Archived from the original on March 7, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  5. ^ Christl, Cliff (November 17, 2017). "Wiring, weather suspected causes of Rockwood Lodge blaze". Green Bay Packers, Inc. Archived from the original on March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  6. ^ Hornacek, Robert (January 30, 2014). "FOX 11 Investigates: The fire at Rockwood Lodge". Sinclair Broadcast Group. Archived from the original on September 26, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Funds for Rockwood Area Park Approved". Green Bay Press-Gazette. November 8, 1968. p. 3. Archived from the original on March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  8. ^ McGinn, Bob (September 6, 1981). "Packers training camp history colorful". Green Bay Press-Gazette. p. 105. Archived from the original on March 7, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  9. ^ Ruebel, Kathleen (October 9, 1975). "Bay Shore Park Ramp, Parking Are Planned". Green Bay Press-Gazette. p. 9. Archived from the original on March 9, 2019. Retrieved March 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  10. ^ "Bay Shore Park". Brown County Government - Wisconsin. 2019. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  11. ^ "Packers Heritage Trail Sites". packersheritagetrail.com. Archived from the original on August 18, 2018. Retrieved March 9, 2019.