By Mallory Allen, Mara Allen, Lindsey Gloede, & Abbi Pflum
Winter Storm Delilah threatened to upend months of planning, but ultimately, “Football Night” at UW-Green Bay’s basketball games went off without a hitch.
On February 23, the Green Bay Blizzard organization and Green Bay Packers alumni joined forces with UWGB Athletics to host the first-ever “Football Night” at the Kress Center. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were in action against Cleveland State for their final regular-season home games, with the highlight of the night being the Phoenix women winning a share of the Horizon League conference title.
This event was the culmination of a new partnership between Green Bay Athletics and the Green Bay Blizzard, a member of the professional Indoor Football League. Blizzard players, coaches, staff, and fans were recognized during the games, along with several former Green Bay Packers players (Jarrett Bush, Junius Coston, and Chris Francies).
Leaning into the theme for the night, several in-game promotions were modified to be football-related, and Phoenix fans in attendance were offered a special buy-one, get-one free ticket deal for the Blizzard’s first home game at the Resch Center on March 19.
Sean Daniels, UWGB’s Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, said he was very happy with how the night went. “I think it would be fun to do this every year at our games and continue to find ways to bridge our fan bases together.”
The Blizzard and Phoenix officially partnered late last summer, and a potential ‘Football Night’ at a UWGB basketball game was at the forefront of both organizations’ minds right away.
“Green Bay Athletics wanted to partner up with the Green Bay Blizzard because we have many of the same interested fans coming to our games that go to the Blizzard games. We also know the Blizzard staff and really respect the job that they have done to build their brand, sell tickets and get people to come to their games,” Daniels explained. “This is a football-loving community, so we were excited to bring a football theme to a Green Bay basketball event.”
Another connection these two programs have in common is Kathy and Larry Treankler, a sports-loving husband-and-wife duo who have owned the Green Bay Blizzard for the past 10 years. They have also been members of the Phoenix Fund since 2005 and are huge supporters of Green Bay Athletics.
“It was very rewarding for me to see the two sports teams we promote the most working together! The Blizzard and UWGB have a lot of the same fan base, so to see some of our fans, coaches, staff, and players in the Kress Center was fantastic,” Kathy Treankler said. “Our family is very sports-minded. Once the UWGB basketball season has wrapped up, we are in full-time football mode with the Blizzard.”
Football Night: Student & Fan Perspective
One of the main goals for Green Bay Athletics is to get more fans in the stands for its home athletic events. Designing and marketing ‘themed’ games like Football Night, geared towards attracting both students and local community members, is a great example of this.
“Two of my favorite sports are football and basketball, so seeing as the theme for UWGB’s basketball games was Football Night, it was definitely right up my alley,” said sophomore Jenna Kohl, who was in attendance for the doubleheader with a few friends. “I knew that the Blizzard organization and some Packers alumni were going to be there, which sounded really cool, and it was a huge game for the women’s team heading into the postseason. It was a lot of fun.”
Junior Isabel Gosse expressed a similar sentiment. “As basketball season comes to an end, I knew this game for the women’s team was important. Due to the bad weather, many of my friends had an open night. We’d seen social media posts advertising that the theme for the games was Football Night, and we thought it would be a lot of fun to go support.”
Not only did the event draw in UW-Green Bay students, but a lot of community members and Blizzard fans as well. De Pere residents Kara Sternhagen and her son Javon, for example, purchased tickets using the Blizzard promo code.
“We’re anxious for the Blizzard season to start and thought this would be a great way to support the organization. Plus, it’s always fun catching a game at the Kress Center,” Sternhagen said.
Deldrick Canty, a defensive lineman who is entering his fifth season with the Blizzard, said he enjoyed attending the event. “Football Night was cool. I’ve been in Green Bay for a while, and I know how important it is to the Blizzard to support the community that supports our team.”
Community & Sports
Daniels said that because “Football Night” with the Blizzard was such a success, Green Bay Athletics may be interested in teaming up with other local sports teams for theme nights in the future. “Seeing how well Football Night went makes us believe we can do the same thing with the Rockers or the Gamblers. We want to keep our fans interested and find ways to bring in new people to Green Bay basketball games and give them an experience they will remember for a long time,” Daniels explained.
Community members have plenty of options for affordable, family-friendly sports entertainment right in their own backyards. Aside from the Packers, there’s the Green Bay Phoenix, Green Bay Blizzard (football), Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (baseball), Wisconsin Herd (basketball), Green Bay Rockers (baseball), and Green Bay Glory (soccer).
Championing the area’s “smaller” sports teams is something Sternhagen says she holds close to her heart. “We’re so lucky to live in a city with an NFL team. We all know those Green Bay Packers players get a lot of recognition and all the glitz and glamor. But we have a lot of other sports teams in the area, too,” she said. “It’s important to try to support them however we can.”
Treankler agreed, noting the significance community support plays in keeping athletic programs like the Green Bay Phoenix and the Green Bay Blizzard alive and well. “It is so important for our community to support these teams. It isn’t just about the skills the athletes use on the court and field; it is about our community coming together to celebrate and promote our town’s athletics.”