Nestled in frigid northeast Wisconsin, Lambeau Field always has exposed its occupants to the outdoor elements. From the 1967 Ice Bowl to the 2008 Snow Globe playoff game against the Seahawks, the "frozen tundra" has hosted epic cold-weather contests.
But what if the Packers' stadium had been domed, mitigating one of the best home-field advantages in football and one of the best atmospheres in sports?
"To do that to Lambeau Field would be a sin," former Packers president Bob Harlan said. "To me football's meant to be played outside. If I talked about putting a dome on the stadium, I'm not sure I could walk to the office building from my car and still be alive."
But before Harlan became president in 1989, the Packers engaged a design team, which included Geiger Berger Associates and The Eggers Group P.C., to study the feasibility of covering Lambeau Field with an air-supported cable restrained fabric roof.
The study, released on August 13, 1982, examined the amount of capital investment, the duration of the construction and the additional revenue that it would produce.
David Campbell, a design engineer in 1982 at Geiger Berger Associates and now the president of Geiger Engineers, estimates it would have cost at least $10 million for the roof and $5 million or 6 million for the heating and ventilation back then.
According to the study, they analyzed the potential of gathering extra revenue through "trade and travel shows, exhibitions, concerts, rodeos, horse shows, etc., as offseason users of the facility in determining the cost effectiveness of encapsulating Lambeau Field."
If Lambeau had added a dome, the results could've been dire. None of those interviewed suggested that Green Bay would've ended up losing the franchise, but the NFL's smallest market always has faced a unique challenge to maintain its team.
"There's no telling what might've happened," said Packers team historian Cliff Christl. "It certainly would've tarnished some of the tradition and charm of the franchise, its romantic appeal."
Placing a dome on Lambeau not only would have tarnished some of the charm, but also eroded the Packers' edge. While he was still in his prime heading into his 14th Packers season, Brett Favre had a 38-3 record at Lambeau and a 95.0 QB rating when the temperature was 34 degrees or below. The Packers have won 15 straight games at Lambeau, and Aaron Rodgers attempted 587 straight passes (from December 2012 to October 2015) there without throwing an interception.
But today's Packers, who have become a national brand, are a far cry from the Packers of 1982. From 1968 when Vince Lombardi left to 1992 when general manager Ron Wolf came aboard, the Packers had only four winning seasons. In the late 1980s, no-shows at Lambeau exceeded 10,000, and in 1987 Frank Deford wrote in Sports Illustrated that the Packers needed to move to Milwaukee to save the franchise.
So evaluating all possible ways to change the stadium or maximize revenue -- however cursory an examination it may have been -- was simply smart business management.
"In hindsight it seems like a ridiculous idea," said Christl before noting that one needs to keep the time period in perspective, "survival … was something that they had to be constantly thinking about."
Glen Christensen was destined to become a die-hard Packers fan after Curly Lambeau chose his mother, Germaine Pirlot, for the Lumberjack Band that performed at Green Bay games in the 1940s.
"He wanted a pretty blonde on the sidelines," Christensen said.
Christensen, 55, lives in Grapevine, Texas, now, but he remains a Packers season-ticket holder and whenever he travels to Green Bay for a game he goes to garage sales and antique stores in hopes of adding to his impressive man cave, which features Packers collectibles.
On a Saturday morning in 2013, he attended a rummage sale just blocks from Lambeau Field. Beneath a cigar box was a copy of the feasibility study that examined putting a dome on Lambeau.
Christensen immediately ponied up the nominal $5 fee.
"It's startling to me that they even thought of doing this," he said. "That’s why I just thought this thing was just gold when I found it. It's such a crazy thing."
When not attending Packers games, Christensen watches from his Dallas-area home with his family while munching on bratwurst he ships in from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and cheese curds.
His residence also has enough memorabilia to fill a museum and includes bobbleheads, autographed jerseys and helmets, a locker room, an actual turnstile for the entrance, and replica Lombardi Trophies.
But the item that draws the most attention from people who visit his man cave is the dome feasibility study.
"This really shocks them," he said. "And I have not heard one person say, 'Boy, would that be a great idea.'"
The 1982 feasibility study is so esoteric that Harlan, who was the Packers' corporate assistant to the president at the time -- along with several other current Packers staffers -- have no recollection of it.
"It wasn't a huge story," said Christl, who previously covered the team for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Green Bay Press-Gazette. "But I do remember writing about it."
The Packers were simply trying to keep up with the Joneses of the NFL. In the 1980s domes seemed like the wave of the future. And two of Green Bay's NFC Central brethren, the Lions and Vikings, had recently built domed stadiums, providing further incentive for Green Bay to explore the issue.
"The study was done, but I don't think there was any serious follow-up on that," Campbell said. "It never had any legs."
The Packers also were not unique in reaching out to examine the possibility of a domed structure. Campbell worked on feasibility studies to dome San Francisco's Candlestick Park and Oregon's Autzen Stadium.
"A number of stadiums were interested in looking at it," he said. "None of the major stadiums actually did it."
The Lions did open their Silverdome in 1975, and the Metrodome opened on April 3, 1982 -- just months before the Packers' own study of a dome, and the sketches bear a striking resemblance to the Vikings' former home.
Since 1975 the Lions have never been to an NFL championship. And after reaching the Super Bowl four times while playing in the outdoor Metropolitan Stadium, the Vikings have been to zero since moving inside.
"(It's) one of the reasons the Vikings have struggled," Christl said. "They don't have an identity, and the Packers wouldn't have either."
The 1982 study was not even the first time a dome in Green Bay was discussed. Christl said that in the 1940s Curly Lambeau -- himself -- talked about a day when all teams would play in climate-controlled conditions.
To address some of the same concerns raised in 1982 about an open-air stadium in a cold weather climate, Harlan spearheaded a major stadium renovation in 2000. Part of the $295 million overhaul was the Lambeau Field Atrium, a five-story, 366,000-square foot dining, entertainment and retail center on the east side of the stadium that makes Lambeau a 365 day-a-year destination.
"We simply could not have continued to exist in the old Lambeau Field," Harlan said.
That renovation ensured the best of both worlds. The Packers maintained the ambience of seeing an outdoor game at Lambeau Field while also creating a structure that would generate local revenue for the publicly owned team -- without having to resort to building a dome.
"It's a 1,000 percent consensus that would ruin the Packer experience," Christensen said. "I love sitting out at Lambeau."
-- Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.