Sports are full of anomalies. Take Green Bay, Wisconsin for example. The small market spawns a massive fan following, some actually owning the team, others on a 130,000-person waiting list for season tickets, and many others still traveling far and wide for gameday. There’s history, loyalty, and pride in their pack. Perhaps “family” is a better word to describe the Packers faithful.
And if you really want to see family values personified, venture into the offices at the historic Lambeau Field, and pull back the curtain on the Packers organization. Feast on the spread of carbs, caffeine, and candy corn offered on gameday. Laugh with ushers who run out of fingers and toes to count their years as a Packers employee. Or better yet, ride in the sidecar of a Packers suite director for a gameday like I did to see why birds of this particular feather continue to flock together.
I had the opportunity to accompany Julie Kostner during her final game as Senior Premium Seating Coordinator for the Packers. As she visited her suites for the final time and walked her Fitbit into its final tailspin before retirement, I watched her and countless doting clients recount memories. I watched her share final hugs and handshakes with the suite attendants who sadly said goodbye, for now.
Though I wasn’t surprised to see clients showing their admiration for a job well done, I was captivated by how affectionate the embraces were. The ALSD community would like to share its own embrace and send one of our own off as our member highlight, letting Julie celebrate her life, career, and family in her own words.
The Green Bay Packers offered Julie Kostner, early in her career and in parenthood, a position that offered the sacred benefit of balance. A part-timer to begin, she was able to meet the school bus and enjoy summers off. She applied for a full-time role only when she knew balance could still be achieved, and spent 24 seasons making memories with the Green and Gold.
Julie is now closing her Packers playbook in much the same way it opened, only this time balancing part-time suite responsibilities with future full-time aspirations of traveling to see her growing brood of grandbabies.
How does it feel riding off into the sunset?
It feels great. I am really looking forward to it.
What does retirement look like in Green Bay?
I look forward to traveling with my husband, spending more time with our granddaughters, and continuing to volunteer in the Green Bay-area elementary schools, helping to support literacy and a love for reading for children in K-3.
You must still want to attend Packers games?
Actually after working every game for 24 seasons, I look forward to watching in my living room for a couple years.
How and why did you get your start with the Packers?
I began my career at the Packers in 1994, working in the Packer Pro Shop while my kids were in school, home to meet the school bus, off in the summers.
I was offered a full-time position after my first season, which I turned down. The kids were first priority and were too young to stay home alone. I was offered a full-time role again after my second season, and luckily, they were willing to work with me during the summer to find a balance that worked. I was manager of catalog sales and phone center from 1996-2003. In 2003, I interviewed for an opening and got the position as a coordinator in premium seating.
“First and foremost, listen to what others want, whether it is clients, coworkers, or peers. You learn so much by just listening.”
– Julie Kostner, Green Bay Packers
Tell us a few of the best lessons you learned during your career in sports.
First and foremost, listen to what others want, whether it is clients, coworkers, or peers. You learn so much by just listening.
Also in sports, we are able to create experiences that money can't buy, and we all have the ability and responsibility to do what we can to make those moments happen and make them memorable.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
What is your most favorite memory or game at the Packers and why?
There are so many, but a few stand out: Winning the NFC Championship in 1996 on a freezing cold day to advance to Super Bowl XXXI. The huge production of the kickoff game and all of the events we hosted after Super Bowl XLV. And of course, Thanksgiving 2015 when Brett Favre’s number was retired, and Bart Starr joined him on the field.
Do you have a favorite premium area? And what changes in premium at Lambeau Field are enhancing the fan experience?
We did a total renovation of the original 168 suites, which included creating a better fan experience by adding windows that open in all suites. We also enacted a branding program that clients appreciate, with choices to brand with corporate marks or Packers art, all within a template the suites department created for consistency.
The addition of the Sports and the Arts collection on the premium levels is very special and adds to the tradition that is Lambeau Field, detailing many moments, memories, and players in team history. We had a great need to enhance the concourse walls, and the Sports and the Arts delivered on that need.
The outdoor lofts for rooftop viewing were also a great addition, though I am partial to the original premium suites.
What changes or requests on the premium levels have you experienced over the years?
It’s definitely changing. We are now competing with staying in the comforts of home, rising ticket prices, and fan security. That's why it is of the utmost importance that all clients – long-term, single-game, phone inquiries – feel valued and important.
What most of us in premium seating know now is that we can add value to any client’s experience just by utilizing assets we already have. Field passes, autograph sessions, private events all don’t add to teams’ costs, but certainly add to the fan’s experience.
Tell me a story about that.
I had a client, sometimes hard to please, who wanted to take his grandson to our rooftop, which you need a premium ticket for, but he had only general admission tickets. Not solely because I wanted to win him over – though that didn’t hurt – but because we are in the business of delivering memories, I made sure the two of them made it up there so his grandson could see the flyover up close and be the main man in his class on Monday. The client thanked me and our staff, of course.
But the story gets better. His grandson, it turned out, wasn’t a Packers fan, but a Lions fan. I knew that my Lions counterpart had a neighbor kid that was a Packers fan, who I had sent tchotchkes to over the years. Of course, when I told her about the grandson Lions fans, she graciously reciprocated and sent Lions gear his way, proving that if we keep our ears to the ground for opportunities to surprise and delight, and leverage relationships when appropriate, we can create experiences that our clients never forget.
Pleasing this client wasn’t about the thank you at the end, but it sure was nice when he wrote a note about what a class act the Packers are.
A class act indeed. Congratulations, Julie! The ALSD and our industry family wishes you well on your way to retirement. Thank you for your service.
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