By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – When most people attend a Green Bay Packers football game, their focus is likely not on which company supplied the cup their newly-purchased beer is in, or that tray they are eating their nachos out of barely made it in time for the game because of supply chain shortages.
Don’t worry – Ed Fritsch Koehl, the commissary manager for Delaware North Sportservice, the hospitality partner of the Packers – has a handle on those.
An Appleton native, graduate of the University of Minnesota and lifelong Packers fan, Fritsch Koehl said being able to come to Lambeau Field every day for work is definitely a career perk.
“I mean, it’s pretty easy to come to Lambeau Field every day for work, right?” he said.
However, in his role as commissary manager, the opportunity his position gives him to put math and logic together to create a plan of attack is what he likes most about his job.
“That was kind of the one thing I was always looking for, is how can we add analytics to this to make sure we’re being as efficient as possible?” he said.
Majoring in sports management, Fritsch Koehl was able to dip his toes into the industry toward the end of his college career with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“If you go to a sporting event, everything you see on a scoreboard or hear on the PA system or see on the playing surface that isn’t the actual game (I had a hand in),” he said.
After graduation, Fritsch Koehl said he found himself back in Wisconsin selling season tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers, then for the Milwaukee Mile, before getting a position with the nonprofit connected with the Badger State Games.
“I kind of jumped around, worked with the volunteer portion of the Iron Man in Madison, went back to Milwaukee and ran a restaurant, before doing some event coordination for the Potawatomi Casino,” he said.
That was until he made the move to Titletown to be with his now wife Anne in 2018.
“I was dating my now wife,” he said. “She was living up here, and I was in Milwaukee. And it was about three years of that. I spent about a year trying to find a job up here – something that kind of fit my background, but also something that I would want to do.”
Fritsch Koehl found himself landing with Delaware North as a catering manager.
“I got the opportunity with Delaware North, have since proposed to and married my wife and have had a few different positions within the company,” he said.
The right fit
Fritsch Koehl said he realized in college he’s best at being the behind-the-scenes guy.
“You know you’re doing a good job because nobody notices you,” he said.
When Lambeau Field reopened following the COVID-19 shutdown, and the position of commissary manager presented itself to him, Fritsch Koehl said it seemed like a good fit.
“I saw it as an area where, using my background, I felt I could probably do our company more good for the bottom line by taking on that position,” he said. “So this was different than anything I had done, but it was like parts of pieces of what I’ve done. It was a stadium atmosphere, revolving around sports, food and then doing some data analysis.”
In his role, Fritsch Koehl is in charge of ordering and organizing all products needed to entertain fans on gamedays – from beverages and cups to ice scoopers and napkins.
“I handle ordering dry products, beverages,” he said. “I oversee all aspects of our liquor warehouse. I work with our concessions manager to ensure that standards are stacked for the season and then restocked between games. I work with our local corporate procurement and other local or national distributors on procuring small wares.”
Coming up on his one-year anniversary in the position, Fritsch Koehl said what he’s learned during that time is that he could have never fully grasped the scope of what this operation entails until moving into this role.
“Everything takes 15 minutes longer than you think just because the stadium is massive,” he said. “Basically since I’ve been here, if I say I’ll be done at a certain time, my wife usually adds an hour. You think you’re close to done and then tasks take longer than you think. And when you are finished, you’re six floors up on the opposite end of the stadium and it takes 15 to 20 minutes just to get back to your computer, close that down, put everything away and then get out to your car and actually get out on the road.”
One of the obstacles Fritsch Koehl said he’s had to overcome as manager as of late, and as his team begins preparing for the 2022 season, is supply chain shortages.
“As we start to ramp up for 2022 to kind of hope that it’s where it needs to be and you’re planning enough time in advance, just in case something takes 12-16 weeks to show up,” he said. “But you never really know if that’s even going to be enough time. That’s probably the most stressful part, I think.”
Always working on gameday
Though it might sound exciting to be amongst all the hustle and bustle of gamedays, Fritsch Koehl said for him and his warehouse staff, it’s all business.
“Pretty much all of us here at Delaware North work gamedays,” he said. “I would be hard pressed to think of any individual person that isn’t required to be here. For me, it’s getting in early, probably five to six hours before the gates open. I walk the stadium, taking care of some last minute tasks and just making sure everything is ready to go.”
Fritsch Koehl said the warehouse staff is pretty much constantly moving product out to concessions locations or some of the premium locations until the end of the third quarter.
“Then we shut our garage door, turn off the lights and most of us go home,” he said. “I will tend to be here probably at least an hour or two after the game ends. Just taking care of any post-game needs.”
Then the following week is spent preparing for the next game – replenishing where it needs replenishing and ordering items that need ordering.
Fritsch Koehl said while at times it can be hectic, the warehouse team learned preparation was key, which made each game less and less hectic.
“We’re kind of separate from all the other gameday people, and are pretty much just waiting for the phone to ring and finding products on our shelves and taking it up to where it needs to go,” he said. “However, one of the advantages of where we are is the players tunnel that Packers walk through to get from their locker room to the field is right around the corner from us. We don’t interact with them, but we can very easily see them at times.”
Fritsch Koehl said the team also hears the action when it comes down toward the south end zone.
“You can hear the excitement and touchdowns happen,” he said. “So, that’s pretty cool.”
Sense of pride
Fritsch Koehl said he doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to working in Lambeau Field.
“When it comes up, ‘Oh, what do you do for a living?’” he said. “I’m the warehouse manager for the food and beverage company that operates Lambeau Field – that’s typically how I will describe it. I think that portion is self-explanatory enough. I think the one thing people think when you say you work at Lambeau Field, they are like ‘Oh, you work for the Packers.’ It’s like ‘Well, no. Kind of.’”
Fritsch Koehl said working in pro sport venues in Minnesota, Milwaukee and now Green Bay, there is definitely a sense of pride that goes along with it.
“I get to go to this place every day for work,” he said. “And I’m definitely a Packers fan.”
During the off-season – yes, the warehouse manager has it too – Fritsch Koehl said he and his wife enjoy visiting as many craft breweries as they can.
“We are at more than 150 total – nearing 100 in Wisconsin,” he said. “So we’re trying to figure out what kind of special one that will be number 100.”
Fritsch Koehl said they also like to travel – when they can.
“Obviously with football season that limits our ability to do so for almost half the calendar year,” he said. “But we try to take advantage of it when we can in the late winter, spring and early summer.”
It’s often said it’s the work of the people behind the scenes that make things happen.
The Press Times looks to highlight those very contributions in a series called Behind the Scenes.