Green Bay Packers fans benefit from Richland man’s long wait for tickets

Tri-City HeraldAugust 1, 2013 

Packer season tickets

Brad Fisher, right, has waited nearly 30 years to become a Green Pay Packers season ticket holder. Finally this season his dream will come through and with help from friends, Jeff Van Meighem of Richland, left clockwise, Steve Beckman of Kennewick, Frank Apodaca of Kennewick, Bernie Walter of Kennewick and Graham Loynd of Pasco who bought up the tickets to games Fisher can't attend.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

On Thursday afternoon, in the heart of Seattle Seahawks country, the enemy consorted to plan their upcoming season.

Richland's Brad Fisher -- the former Kennewick mayor and city councilman -- and five of his friends sat in his office amid Green Bay Packers jerseys, programs, pictures, and one large cheesehead for one purpose: distributing Fisher's Packers season tickets.

After a 29-year wait on the list for season tickets, Fisher's number came up this spring for two seats.

Fisher, 56, is the senior vice president and branch director at RBC Wealth Management, and has been to 10 Packers games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay throughout the years.

The other five men in the room -- Kennewick's Frank Apodaca, Steve Beckman and Bernie Walter; Dr. Graham Loynd of Pasco; and Jeff Van Meighem of Richland -- either grew up in Wisconsin or have relatives who did.

They all know each other through Packers games, and have watched them on TV together or at NFL stadiums.

So when Fisher got the call to the big leagues, he decided to share his good fortune with his friends.

He picked the two home games he wanted, then allowed the others to select their games -- at the face-value price of $82 a seat.

"Why not allow other people to go?" he said. "Giving people a chance, some of them for the first time ever, to go to Lambeau is a neat thing."

Van Meighem said he looked at secondary markets for tickets to Packers games, and the cheapest he could find was $213 for one seat.

"So I think it's a great thing Brad is doing," Van Meighem said.

But Fisher also made them sign a contract, with three rules ...

First, they aren't allowed to resell the tickets.

Second, they have to strictly abide by the Packers Fan Code of Conduct (basically no foul language, no unruly behavior, don't get out of control drunk, et cetera).

And third, do not sit in Fisher's seats and wear the other teams' jerseys or colors, especially those of the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings.

With this group, none of the above items would be a problem.

Ironically Fisher, who grew up in Kennewick, has no connections to the Wisconsin region.

For him, it was about watching Super Bowls I and II and falling in love with the Packers, who won them both.

That was when he was 10. It wasn't until 17 years later that he got his name on the season-ticket holder waiting list.

Fisher was invited by a friend to go on a trip back to the Midwest in 1984, when he was 27 years old.

"He wanted to see a Notre Dame football game in South Bend, Ind.," said Fisher, who really didn't find that interesting.

But then the friend sweetened the pot.

"He said why don't we find a weekend that both Notre Dame and Green Bay were at home and go to both," Fisher said. "I said 'Now you've got my attention.' But the team was playing in Milwaukee, and I said I wouldn't go if we didn't also drive to Green Bay so I could see Lambeau Field."

The pair followed the team buses back from Milwaukee to Green Bay after the Packers game, and they found Lambeau.

They also met then-Packers head coach Forrest Gregg, and when he found out the two came all the way from Kennewick, he told them to come back the next day for a tour of the stadium.

On that tour, Fisher ran into Mark Wagner, who worked for the Packers in ticket sales.

"He asked us if we wanted to be on the season-ticket waiting list," Fisher said. "My friend said no. I said yes. So I have to thank Mark Wagner for asking me that question."

At the time, there were 16,000 people on the waiting list.

But each of those 29 years, Fisher got a card in the mail from the Packers listing where his number was. Thanks to stadium seating expansion, Fisher kept moving up the list.

Last year, his number was 1,456.

"So I knew I would get in this season," he said.

Wagner, who is the director of ticket operations for the Packers, said people have to wait a long time.

"It's hard to say what the average is," Wagner said. "It's somewhere around 30 years. We have season-ticket holders from almost every state in the union. And Canada. And I believe Mexico."

When asked why the Packers seem to be so universally loved, Wagner answers quickly.

"I think it's our unique ownership style," Wagner said.

The public owns the franchise, buying shares in the operation.

That includes Fisher and his son Zach, Van Meighem and his two teenage daughters, and Beckman. All of them have a few shares of the team.

Some of the men in the room shared stories of why they like the team so much.

Beckman fell in love when he was watching the Ice Bowl in 1967, when quarterback Bart Starr sneaked into the end zone behind Jerry Kramer's block with 16 seconds remaining to give the Packers a 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship.

Loynd -- a doctor who delivered Fisher's son 17 years ago -- went to high school in the Green Bay area.

"I was from Canada, and I didn't know much about football," Loynd said. "Then I went to the University of Wisconsin. This was in 1962. In the dorm I lived in, we had one television for the entire building. On Sunday afternoons, that TV was reserved for Packers time."

Loynd praised Packers announcer Ray Scott, who knew so much about the team and the NFL.

"He's just head and shoulders above anybody out there today," Loynd said.

Walter grew up in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.

"I was born in 1956, so I was a kid during the team's glory days," Walter said. "My dad had a little Christmas tree farm that my brother and I would work on Saturdays and Sundays. But during the Packers season, we'd have to shut it down on Sunday mornings because no one was coming."

And then there is Apodaca, who bought tickets to the Packers' 2011 home opener a few years ago, the season right after Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

"The game was on Sept. 8, my wife's birthday," Apodaca said. "On Aug. 25th, I was having a heart attack. As the doctor was checking me out, I remembered about the game. I said 'Doc, I've got to be at the Green Bay game on Sept. 8.' He said 'Wait. Let's take care of you first.' "

After he had been treated, the doctor told Apodaca he could go to the game. Which was good.

"My wife said she was going to go without me," he said.

Apodaca understood where his wife was coming from.

"The Packers are unique," Apodaca said. "They're not like any other club, with the way they are owned. If we lose a game, my wife is down for a long time."

So is Fisher when they lose. He's stayed loyal to the Packers all these years, and that's what happens when you're a kid who falls in love with a winning team.

"Think of a 10-year-old rooting for winners," Fisher said. "If I had been born 10 years later, I probably would have been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan."

And what about the backyard Seahawks, who weren't born until 1976 -- about 10 years into Fisher's love affair with the Packers?

"I am a Seahawks fan, except when they play the Packers," he said.

w Jeff; 582-1507

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