Packing Them In

Posted on Nov 1, 2009 :: Down Time
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Robinson Metal hosts employees and customers in style for every Packers home game

The Lambeau Field neighborhood is already deep into game-day party mode by 9 a.m. Cars line the streets and populate the lawns just north of Lombardi Avenue, and the air is filled with the aroma of grilled brats and burgers. Tailgating is a well-known tradition around Lambeau Field and in other parking lots on the south side of Lombardi, but the festivities extend to this side as well.

The stadium looms over a modest home on Shadow Lane, which looks like your basic middle-class ranch house from the sidewalk. In the backyard, which borders Lombardi Avenue, De Pere-based Robinson Metal has created a Packer fan’s wonderland.

In the corner stands an 11-foot-tall replica of the Lombardi Trophy, created in stainless steel by Robinson employees. A long garage, open on three sides, has been converted into a warming house and food serving line. Picnic tables dot the yard. A turnstile guards the entrance to the yard from Lombardi Avenue. Inside the house, walls are lined with Packers photos and mementos.

It’s a blue-collar setting and could be your neighbors’ backyard, if your neighbors decided to invite over a couple of hundred of their closest friends.

In the midst of all this – among 200-plus Robinson employees, family members and customers – Robinson Metal President Darrell LaCrosse and Tom Verboncouer, Robinson’s sales and marketing manager, survey the scene with obvious pleasure.

“We don’t go for ostentatious functions,” says LaCrosse. “We’re all big Packer fans and we were just looking for a low-key way to entertain our employees and customers.”

Robinson bought the house earlier this year, so this is the company’s first season entertaining here.

“Until now, we had a bus and some tents in the parking lot that we used for entertaining before games, but if the weather was bad, it sometimes affected our turnout,” says Verboncouer. “We usually had 150 or so turn out, but sometimes they didn’t come until closer to game time if it was cold and windy. Here we have shelter and warmth to keep everyone comfortable.”

This isn’t one of those really bad days, though the temperature hovers in the 40s all morning under overcast skies. Plenty of people occupy the picnic tables, while others stay warm beneath the infrared lights in the converted garage and a few stay even warmer inside the house.

At a picnic table, Paul Shields, a Robinson customer from Philadelphia, enjoys a brat as he casts an admiring glance across Lombardi Avenue at Lambeau Field. It’s his first visit here.

“I’m a lifelong Eagles fan like my father,” says Shields. “The Eagles are my team and Philadelphia is my town, but I’ve always said that if I had the chance to attend a game anywhere else in the NFL, it would be right here,” he says. “This is like the mecca of football.”

Before long, Shields and his fellow Philadelphians are passing through the backyard turnstile, out onto Lombardi Avenue and across the street to soak in the atmosphere of Lambeau Field.

Verboncouer says he gets that reaction all the time from out-of-town guests. “We get customers here from California to New York to Florida,” he says. “Besides the Philadelphia people today, we have some here from Utah. Almost always, when people come from other parts of the country, they’re excited to see Lambeau Field. It’s a big part of the total experience when we bring them here to see our operations.”

Robinson’s connection with the Packers goes beyond typical fandom. The company produces the stainless steel footballs that sit atop the Walk of Legends monuments near Lambeau Field, the fencing inside the stadium and shelving around the columns in the Atrium and stadium concourses.

It’s obvious, though, that game days are a special part of the Robinson connection with their employees, their customers and the Packers.

“This is our way of giving back,” says Verboncouer.