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Rockwood Lodge

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Rockwood Lodge

Rockwood Lodge was the training facility of the Green Bay Packers from 1946 through 1949. It is believed to have been the first self-contained team training facility in pro football history.

Located approximately 17 miles (27 km) north of the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, on a limestone bluff overlooking the eponymous Green Bay, the 53-acre (210,000 m2) complex included player housing and a natural outdoor "amphitheater" in which team meetings were held. It had originally been built in 1937 as a retreat for the Norbertine Order, whose abbey was located in nearby De Pere. 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.

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. 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.

On January 24, 1950, Rockwood Lodge burned down. 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. The cause of the fire remains unknown to this day, though rumors have long abounded 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 save the franchise and keep it in Green Bay.

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 DePere, Wisconsin, where they train to this day.

The grounds of Rockwood Lodge now make up Bay Shore Park.

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.

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