Longtime news anchor Jartz has a great second gig with the Packers
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Those who watch WBAY TV-2 in Green Bay during the week for the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts know him as Bill Jartz.
His friends call him VOLF: Voice of Lambeau Field.
He’s a larger-than-life figure who comes off as a jubilant cheerleader during Packers games and a serious but witty anchor at the top-rated station in the 70th largest television market in the country.
In his 17th year as the public address announcer for the Packers, it’s a gig Jartz said he loves.
“Sometimes you’ve got to pinch yourself,” he said. “When you walk out of the stadium after a big win, and you think there are times you made a difference. If there’s a critical down and you got the crowd revved up, it unfolds the way you want it to. They seem to respond to me.”
Jartz said when he runs into people, they ask him more about his public address announcer job more than his TV profession.
“On TV, if you misspeak a government official’s name, nobody cares,” Jartz said. “Misspeak over (at Lambeau Field) and it’s, ‘What are you doing? Don’t you know what to do?’”
Jartz’s first experience with public address announcing came when he was a sophomore at Clintonville High School, and he called boys’ basketball games.
Calling games at Lambeau Field became a reality in summer 2005.
Jartz was staining his house when he received a call.
He debated answering it but chose wisely and picked up the phone.
Then-Packers director of public relations Jeff Blumb was on the other end.
Jartz said he was wondering why Blumb was calling.
“I said, ‘Yeah, Jeff. What’s up?” Jartz said. “He said, ‘Gary Knafelc is thinking about retiring from the PA job at Lambeau Field, and we were wondering if you’d be interested?”
Almost cutting off Blumb mid-sentence, Jartz started to respond.
“Yes,” Jartz said.
After clearing his voice, he spoke deeply.
“I’d like to be the voice of Lambeau Field,” Jartz said.
Blumb said some front-office folks for the Packers had discussed bringing him in because he knows the area and isn’t going anywhere.
Jartz was asked to head to Lambeau Field for an audition, and he called his friend, Andy Thompson, to see if he’d be his spotter if he ended up landing the gig – Thompson was on board.
Before the audition, Jartz was given a script.
“‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Lambeau Field. Today’s game between the Packers and the Giants,’” Jartz said. “I remember, honest to God, my hand was shaking. I thought, for God’s sake, start talking, because if I didn’t talk, my hand wouldn’t stop shaking.”
Jartz said the audition went well, and he got word a couple of days later he was the new public address announcer.
He called his first game to kick off the 2005 season.
“Ted Thompson, Bill Jartz and Aaron Rodgers all came to town on the same day, just so you know,” Jartz joked.
Jartz said he loved landing the job, but knew he had big shoes to fill because former Packers player Knafelc was the announcer for 40 years after being hired by legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
The Tuesday before a Sunday game, Jartz calls Packers Communications Manager Tom Fanning to send over a pronunciation guide of the opposing team’s three-deep roster.
Jartz then compiles cheat sheets on how to say each player’s name.
If he has any questions on a name, he’ll generally touch base with folks he knows in that NFL city.
If it’s the Bears, he’ll connect with a friend who’s a fan.
For the Vikings, he knows a TV producer in the Twin Cities.
For the Steelers, he chats with TV colleague Emily Matesic, who hails from Pittsburgh.
Over the years, Jartz has been presented with some difficult names to pronounce, but one takes the cake from the 2014 season: New England Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.
Jartz called the Patriots, and a communications person told him the team remembers Hoomanawanui’s name by signing a song.
“Early in the game, (former New England quarterback Tom) Brady was back to pass and completed it to No. 88,” Jartz said. “I go down the list, 88. ‘Oh, God.’ I can’t sing it. ‘Brady’s pass complete to Hoomanawanui,’ and I damn near sang it. Those are moments you can appreciate. I will never forget that name the rest of my life.”
On game days, Jartz is at Lambeau Field plenty early with his briefcase and two binoculars.
He has a meeting three hours and 15 minutes before kickoff.
The game day crew goes through dry runs with the official script.
If 15 seconds is allotted for Jartz to do a specific read during the pregame announcements and it only takes him 13 seconds, that time is adjusted accordingly for when to cue him to talk.
“People ask, ‘What’s two seconds difference?’ Jartz said. “Because, when the plane is going 300 mph (during the pregame flyover), they’d be in Antigo if we start too early.”
When he receives his flip card hours before a game, he scribbles notes on it.
The flip card – which is given to media members – is a two-sided double sheet of paper that includes each player’s name, height, weight, age, numbers of years in the NFL and college they attended in numeral order.
It also has players’ names in alphabetic order.
Jartz writes the phonic spelling of visiting players to the side of their name.
On his flip card, he crosses off players who are inactive for the game.
For players with the same surname, Jartz marks their names with a yellow highlighter so he knows to say their first name if they are involved in a play.
He’s given a three-ring binder when he shows up for games and meticulously looks that over.
As he follows along in the book and addresses the crowd, Jartz looks ahead to ensure he has the correct sheet in front of him to announce.
“Many times, there’s a turnover and boom, you’re going,” Jartz said. “You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right page. It’s like a television broadcast.”
Jartz, who played football at Northwestern University after graduating from Clintonville in 1976, moved to Green Bay in 1983 to take the weekend sports anchoring position at WBAY.
Two years later, he was the sports director until 1990.
Jartz left the TV industry but returned to WBAY in 1993.
In ’98, he transitioned to becoming a news anchor.
He’s teamed up with anchor Cami Rapson.
How does Jartz’s role as the public address announcer compare to being on TV five days a week?
“In TV, there are a couple of people there, and there’s not much ambiance, excitement or electricity,” he said. “At Lambeau Field, it’s all electricity, and it builds. It starts slowly, and then it’s time to bring them out. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your 13-time …’ The hair on my neck still stands out. This is my 17th year, and I still get excited about that. Plus, I realize how lucky I am to do this.”
Spotter is Jartz’s eyes
Along with Jartz in the announcer booth is Packers’ game-day producer Mike McKenna and Jartz’s spotter, Pat Van Groll.
Thompson was Jartz’s spotter until 2019 when he retired because of health issues.
Jartz then brought in Van Groll to be his new right-hand man.
Van Groll is Jartz’s eyes to help determine who made tackles, how many yards were gained on a run and who caught a pass.
Jartz’s booth is located next to the press box on the seventh floor in the southwest corner of the end zone.
The vantage point isn’t ideal, so having a spotter and some binoculars are paramount.
“When there’s a score on the far northeast end of the stadium, you’ve got to have binoculars,” Jartz said.
To address the crowd, he has to hit the talk button on an audio box.
His right hand always hovers over the talk button, and his left hand works its way down the script.
His spotter is always on his right.
Sometimes Jartz misses a play while he’s looking ahead to what needs to be read.
If he doesn’t see what happened, he’ll quickly ask Van Groll and McKenna.
“It’s all trust,” Jartz said. “It’s almost like co-anchoring with Cami (Rapson). When I work with somebody else, it doesn’t feel right.”
Last season, with the pandemic limiting those at Lambeau Field for games, Jartz and McKenna were the only two in the booth for games.
The guys were separated by a sheet of Plexiglas – a spotter wasn’t allowed.
“(Being a spotter) isn’t an easy job to do, and I’m dependent on it,” Jartz said. “Last year, we didn’t have it. I told Mike (McKenna) he had to get used to binoculars. We got through it as best we could.”
Packers’ biggest cheerleader
Jartz said he loves being the guy responsible for informing the fans at Lambeau Field about what’s going on and revving up the crowd during big plays.
When Matt LaFleur stepped into the Packers’ head coaching position, Jartz was notified he wanted the stadium constantly rocking.
Jartz said the energy from the crowd is what drives him and his calls to the crowd.
He keeps the window in the booth cracked a bit during games “to get a little ambiance.”
When the crowd is roaring, it gets hard to hear, so Van Groll and McKenna have to talk loud.
“Just shoot it in my ear, so we can get it out there as fast as we can,” Jartz said.
Not having fans in the stands last season was difficult, he said.
“I feed off (the fans) as much as they feed off me,” Jartz said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship – we have a great thing going here. The one thing I’ve developed: ‘That’s another Packerrrrrssssss first down!’ Last year, we didn’t have that. It was difficult until the last two games – the playoff games when they let people in.”
When big plays arise during the game, Jartz isn’t shy about banging on his table in the booth.
He’s a self-proclaimed and emotional guy, and that’s released in his announcing.
“You can’t be stoic,” Jartz said. “That’s not what you want to do – you’re a fan.”
When Jartz walks out of Lambeau Field following a game, he said he’s physically drained.
“It’s constantly go, go, go,” Jartz said. “It’s so much fun.”
Jartz said he’d like to stick with being the public address announcer as long as he has the energy because he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“I want to do this business, TV, probably like three more years, something like that,” he said. “I’m sure you get to a point in your life where you’re not the same buck that you used to be. This job, I take it seriously because it’s a serious job. Even though it’s a fun job, I take it seriously. I’d like to do it until they say it’s time to go away. Hopefully, I can do it for a long time, because it’s fun.”