Wisconsin putting $86M into facilities upgrades

MADISON, Wisc. — Camp Randall Stadium is undergoing a facelift. Well, more like a tummy tuck.

University of Wisconsin football fans likely won’t notice most of the construction that has taken place within the bowels of the venue on game days next season. Though previous construction projects have focused on fans, this venture — an $86 million project — is focused specifically on student-athletes.

Tim Wise, UW’s assistant athletic director for events and facilities, said a three-phase project is underway to build a Student Athlete Performance Center. The idea is to create a hub around the stadium that allows student-athletes to study and train together.

Plans include adding a three-story academic and strength training center on the north end of the stadium. The project also includes renovations to the lower level of the McClain Athletic Facility, an indoor training space built in 1986 that sits northeast of Camp Randall Stadium. It currently holds locker rooms and a strength-training facility, as well as a student-athlete academic center known as the Fetzer Center.

Wise said the project is being paid for from money generated by the athletic department. That means no tax-payer dollars or student fees go toward the project.

“We have great donors and fans that support the university that give a lot back to the campus and to the athletics department in general,” Wise said. “We’re just so grateful to have that type of support.”

The renovations will allow Wisconsin to keep pace with other top-level Division I programs in the facilities race, as well as maintain an edge in recruiting, according to Wise.

The expanded Fetzer Center for academic support will be a 32,000-square foot space located beneath the scoreboard on the north end of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin’s new weight room will be 17,000 square feet, complete with a nutrition bar and cardio area.

The Badgers’ current weight room is 7,824 square feet. For comparison’s sake, Penn State’s weight room is 13,000 square feet and Nebraska’s is 18,700 square feet.

Other state-of-the-art upgrades include a renovated and expanded team football suite, including player and coach locker rooms, team lounge, equipment room and hot/cold recovery pools. Locker space will also be given to the men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as men’s and women’s track and cross country, among others.

Additionally, an athletic training and sports medicine center will be built that features therapy pools as well as rehabilitation and treatment areas for athletes.

Wise credited athletic director Barry Alvarez, the former Badgers football coach, for helping to push this project along.

“If you look at what Coach Alvarez has done,” Wise said, “he set the vision for not only the department but the facilities master plan of what we need to do to upgrade our facility infrastructure to be competitive and to recruit and just to keep that upper hand.”

Among the most noticeable immediate improvements as part of “Phase One” is the installation of new field turf on the Camp Randall Stadium field. Wise said that portion of the project is expected to be completed by no later than June 15.

The FieldTurf is being installed by Tarkett Sports, which has installed turf at the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium and the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, among other venues.

“It’s going to be a better quality FieldTurf,” Wise said. “It’s going to be their latest classic fieldTurf. The FieldTurf that we had in there has been in there about 10 years. They reach their life expectancy after about eight, nine years. So after about 10 years, it’s time to replace it.”

The first phase of renovations also includes digging a tunnel access from the lower level of the McClain Center to the playing field for the Badgers on game day.

Of course, not all of the renovations, which began in early December, will be complete by next season. The Badgers football team will use a temporary locker room for the next two years while a new locker room is built. All construction is expected to finish by January 2014.

This is not the first major renovation to take place at Camp Randall Stadium in the last decade. In 2001, Camp Randall Stadium underwent a $109.5 million expansion that culminated with the opening of the 2005 football season. That project included expanding seating capacity from 76,129 to 80,321.

Camp Randall Stadium, built in 1917, is the fourth-oldest stadium in the nation.

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