Green Bay Packers Score Technology Touchdown1:04 PM EST Tue. Nov. 25, 2008
The Green Bay Packers, which were founded as a football club in 1919, have won more championships than any other NFL team. The Packers' rich legacy includes founder, player and first coach Curly Lambeau, who led the team to six championships and Vince Lombardi, who brought the team another five championships. Here are the famous bronze statues memorializing Lombardi (l.) and Lambeau (r.) in front of the stadium. Technology was little more than X's and O's on a chalkboard for Lambeau and Lombardi. Today, the Packers are one of the top teams using technology to gain a competitive advantage both on and off the field. Here's a look at how the Packers are winning in the technology trenches.
Wayne Wichlacz, the director of information technology for the Green Bay Packers, calls the IT plays for the Packers. Wichlacz oversees an IT team of eight employees that support some 500 full- and part-time employees in both football operations and business units for the Packers.
When Wichlacz started working for the Packers in 1993, he was the only IT employee for the team. Now he oversees seven other employees and numerous third-party employees that run the technology plays on game day. "When I started in 1993 we had about ten computers, two servers and a bunch of dumb terminals," said Wichlacz. "Now we have about 70 servers, 350 computers and over 100 printers." The stadium also has over 1,000 TVs and 1,200 telephones.
One of the Packers' IT partners is Camera Corner/Connecting Point of Green Bay. Camera Corner was founded in 1953 and is now, among other things, a third-generation family business that provides the Packers with everything from multimedia conference rooms, point-of-sale retail systems at the Packers Pro Shop, security systems, laptops for coaches and other personnel, and TVs for Curly's Pub in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Here Wichlacz (center) takes time out for a photo in the Lambeau Field Atrium with Ryan Chernick (l.), vice president representing the third generation of Chernicks driving Camera Corner/Connecting Point and Bill Voelker (r.), Camera Corner senior account executive for the Packers account.
Cable wiring (video, audio, fiber optic, coaxial, triax) is critical for network television broadcast and a wide variety of networks throughout the stadium. A renovated Lambeau Field technology infrastructure has made it dramatically easier for broadcast of big games from the stadium. Before the state-of-the-art cable infrastructure was laid in 2003, network television had to run multiple cables to the network broadcast trucks for each camera. The Packers have more than one million feet of phone and data cabling. "We have literally miles of cable infrastructure in this building," said Wichlacz of the stadium. "Before, it was an arduous task to get everything set up for game day for the networks. Now it is much easier for the networks." The Packers have approximately 15 people to support broadcast television on game day.
The Packers worked with Camera Corner/Connecting Point to provide a state-of-the-art security system that allows Packers security personnel to view the entire stadium from a security center backed up by some 80 cameras inside and outside the stadium. The new security system provides instant video on incidents in the stadium. No photos allowed in the security center. Here is one of the cameras that keeps an eye on Lambeau happenings.
The Packers have 11 classrooms set up for players and coaches to prepare for game day. Camera Corner/Connecting Point provides a good deal of the technology in the classrooms including TVs, projectors and computers. Here, Wichlacz poses in front of the quarterbacks classroom.
Wichlacz signs into the Packers' new computer room. The data center maintains strict security policies to assure no unauthorized access. A security camera is also in the room. The IT team migrated systems to the new computer room on July 12, 2002.
The Packers have dual Avaya S8710 computer-based servers that power their phone system. The S8710s support over 1,000 analog and digital phones and have the ability to run VoIP phones in the future.
The Packers have a wide variety of networking gear from vendors that include Cisco and Extreme Networks. The Packers have a variety of WAN/Firewall gear from vendors such as Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks and SonicWall. These firewalls provide internet connectivity protection for the Packers' organization and game day working media. Here is just some of the Packers' network infrastructure.
The Packers pack a lot of server punch in the form of HP systems in its data center that supports a wide variety of operations from the Ticketmaster database to the Pro Shop business. Servers are used in a variety of ways to support all of the unique requirements of the different Packers business departments. Some servers are also being used for software development and for virtualization testing. Here is Wichlacz looking over a rack of servers.
A Liebert unit keeps the data center cool, protecting the Packers' big IT investment. New servers added for the updated security system required the Packers to add additional cooling.
The Packers have teamed with Camera Corner/Connecting Point on a state-of-the-art multimedia conference room with a Crestron system that controls audio, video and Internet access for the ultimate presentation experience. Here is Wichlacz inside the conference room with the Packers logo hovering overhead.
The Packers' EMC NAS system that provides scalable storage has provided a big win for employees looking to quickly access stored information. Storage needs are growing dramatically for the Packers who have gone from several hundred gigabytes of storage to multiple terabytes. Here Wichlacz (l.) poses in front of the EMC storage system with Camera Corner account executive Bill Voelker.
The Packers have migrated over the last several years from Dell desktop and laptop systems to HP systems. Camera Corner/Connecting Point provides the HP systems. Wichlacz said the organization now has more than 100 HP laptops, and in the last several years has moved its point-of-sale systems to HP. "We are very happy with the HP products," he says. Here Wichlacz (r.) poses with Camera Corner Vice President Ryan Chernick (l.) in front of a rack of servers. Camera Corner CEO Rick Chernick is a member of the HP SMB Partner Advisory Council.
The Packers Pro Shop is big business. The Packers, in fact, are one of the top teams in the NFL in terms of Pro Shop revenue. "The technology obviously is key to the customer experience," Wichlacz said. "You need to get them in and out quickly and the HP systems and all the other technology behind it do that for us." Before the HP point-of-sale system was installed, fans would have to wait 20 seconds to pay with a credit card. Now it is nearly instantaneous. Here, fans buy Packers gear for the big game.
For the new Ticketmaster system, the Packers added wireless access points at all its gates with over 100 handheld scanners that are integrated with the Ticketmaster system. The summer project installation was a collaborative effort with the Packers' IT team, Packers' Facilities team, and the Ticketmaster technical team. Here is one of the team's most rabid fans getting ready to pass through the Lambeau field gates with a cherished Packers' ticket.
The Packers use technology to drive success both on and off the field, said Wichlacz. "Our leadership, our new president and CEO Mark Murphy, our senior team of vice presidents, are all very supportive of technology," said Wichlacz. "They know that it can bring value to the business. I work with them directly in terms of trying to help each one of our areas to improve on an annual basis." At the heart of the team is a belief that the contributions of each and every individual in the organization contribute to the team's success. Here is a plaque at Lambeau that is a living testament to that firmly-held belief that has been passed down from legendary Packers' Coach Vince Lombardi.
The technology in Lambeau's Production Control room is critical on game day. That's where team personnel control the scoreboard, including video replays of touchdowns that keep the Lambeau Field faithful cheering loudly. Here is a replay on the scoreboard of Green Bay Safety Nick Collins intercepting a pass from Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning and returning it for a touchdown.
The video department helps the Packers players to get them set up to view online video in preparation for game day. Here, Wichlacz poses in front of the famed concrete gateway that each and every Packers player runs through to get to the field on game day.
Camera Corner/Connecting Point CEO Rick Chernick (one of ChannelWeb's Top 25 Execs Of 2008), who sits on the Packers Board of Directors, is the ultimate Packers Fan. Here is Chernick sporting Packers Defensive standout A.J. Hawk's ominous number 50 and tailgating before a recent Packers-Colts game. Chernick rarely misses a Packers game. Along with his dad, Chernick was at the legendary Ice Bowl game on Dec. 31, 1967 that featured Packers legend Bart Starr's quarterback sneak to win the NFL Championship.
Chernick's Dad, Norman, who started Camera Corner in 1953, was the person who initiated the name change of what was once Highland Ave. to what is now Lombardi Ave. in honor of Vince Lombardi. In the Packers Hall of Fame, is a letter (pictured) from Norman to Packers' legend Vince Lombardi congratulating Lombardi on a big win.
Camera Corner/Connecting Point CEO Rick Chernick and his wife Rebecca have recently donated funds to replace the pressbox and the stands at City Stadium, the field used by the Green Bay East High School football team. City Stadium is where the Packers used to play. Chernick felt attached to East High and City Stadium, as he graduated from East along with the likes of Curly Lambeau himself. Here is a picture of the Packers' former home that hangs at Lambeau Field.
There is a lot of pressure to make sure all the systems are up and running on game day. Wichlacz said it is all about combining solid preparation with quality products and support. "If you build that pyramid of quality, the amount of worrying I am doing is directly minimized," he said. "If you are trying to save some nickels on the lower end of the pyramid you are going to end up in trouble. We don't choose to do that. We choose to do quality all the way." Here is Wichlacz in front of a shot of Lambeau Field on game day.
The focus on excellence is built into all of the Packers' organization. That excellence leads to big wins. Here is the scoreboard showing the final score of the Packers' big 34 - 14 victory over the Colts. A big win -- no better feeling.