Built on Tradition

Camp Randall Turns 100

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UW Archives UW.CLP-A0385.bib; Bryce Richter; photo illustration by Danielle Lawry

Long before “Jump Around” and the Fifth Quarter, the 50-acre lot on which Camp Randall now stands was home to Wisconsin state fairs and Civil War soldiers.

When the state donated the land to the university in 1893, the track and football teams used the space. The state legislature answered a years-long plea in 1915 to fund a permanent stadium (expedited by an incident of collapsed bleachers that injured hundreds), and the physical framework for today’s Camp Randall was eventually erected in 1917. The UW beat Beloit 34–0 in its first game at the new stadium.

This year, the UW Department of Athletics has been celebrating Camp Randall’s centennial by featuring 100 people who have shaped the stadium’s legacy. While many names are embedded deeply in Wisconsin football lore — among them Pat Richter ’64, JD’71 and Ron Dayne x’00 — the more unexpected honorees underscore the stadium’s versatility.

In honor of Camp Randall’s 100th year, UW athletics issued season football tickets with retro designs inspired by past game programs.

Two months before his Olympic heroics in Berlin, Jessie Owens set two world records at Camp Randall in 1936. (Neither sprinting record stood, however, due to a strong wind at his back.) Pink Floyd, U2, and the Rolling Stones rocked Camp Randall in the ’80s and ’90s, and the Green Bay Packers hosted 12 preseason games in Madison between 1986 and 1999.

The UW men’s soccer team played its first seven seasons at Camp Randall, starting in 1977. The stadium’s turf transitioned to ice for a pair of UW hockey games in 2010. And outdoor commencement ceremonies at the stadium date as far back as 1925.

When asked at a press conference earlier this year why preserving a historic venue like Camp Randall is more important than constructing a new, state-of-the-art stadium, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez didn’t hesitate.

“You can’t build tradition,” he said.

Published in the Fall 2017 issue

Tags: Athletics, Campus history, football, sports

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