Camp Randall Stadium, one of the oldest stadiums still in use in collegiate football, could be expanded and upgraded under a proposed facility master plan development for the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department.
Nothing is imminent, and the document prepared by HOK (Kansas City) and Berners-Schober Associates (Green Bay) represents a wish list of improvements across all the athletic facilities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That includes Camp Randall, the oldest stadium in the Big Ten and the fourth-oldest in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. Opened in 1917 on the site of a former Civil War Union training camp, Camp Randall Stadium has been expanded and renovated several times since then, most recently in 2002-2004, when a five-story office building (which houses the athletic-department offices), luxury boxes, upgraded concessions and restrooms, and new scoreboards were added. That landed Camp Randall at its current capacity of 80,321.
But those renovations were done at times when business planning for college football consisted of cramming as many fannies into the stadium as possible. And while UW announced an average attendance of 79,357 for six Badger home games last season, it’s more than likely (given recent history) the turnstile counts were lower. Losing some seating to stadium improvements-and increasing overall revenues-would not be the worst thing in the world, as many college athletic departments are discovering. Indeed, we’re seeing many programs improve their football stadium with high-end seating areas, designed to enhance the game-day experience while generating additional revenues.
Proposed improvements to Camp Randall Stadium fit within this model. In general, the upgrades would provide additional seating areas and an expanded west concourse to “memorable game-day experiences that entices the fan to arrive early and stay late,” according to the master plan. That includes a new Club Lounge that spills into the adjoining Field House, associated Club Seats, 4-6 person Loge Boxes, Outdoor Terraces, and a new Field Level Club.
Now, some of the proposed work is identified as required maintenance work, such as roof replacements, structural repairs, bowl/concourse waterproofing, toilet room upgrades, future field turf replacement and emergency lighting upgrades. That will cost $18 million.
But the rest of work would open the west side of the stadium to Breese Terrace (a street closed on game day for pedestrian access to the stadium) and connect directly to the Field House on the south side of the stadium. The west-side improvements would also upgrade the press box, widen concourses, upgrade and add concessions, and install new premium seating. That part of the stadium is currently used for bleachers (capacity: 5,500), which would be torn down in favor of premium seating, Loge Boxes, and a club partially in the Camp Randall and partially in the upper level of the Field House, which could be used for events in both venues. (The Field House hosts the popular UW women’s volleyball program and other larger events.) That new Club Terrace could also be used for other community events, such as business meetings and weddings.
The cost: $40 million to $50 million for the south end zone changes, $125 million to $130 for west-side improvements, and upwards of $9 million for Field House upgrades.
One compelling argument for making this plan work: premium seating at Camp Randall Stadium sells out quickly, and a survey of donors and season-ticket holders indicates a demand for more. Financially, the UW-Madison athletic department runs a surplus and contributes to the University general fund – some $11.7 million in the 2016-2017 school year, on an operating expense budget of $122 million.
Renderings courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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