The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.
Wisconsin student football tickets for the 2017 season recently went on sale and sold out within hours. That’s approximately 14,000 tickets. This marks the 25th straight year that UW’s student season tickets have sold out.
But that wasn’t always the case. In the early 1990s, when head coach Barry Alvarez’s tenure in Madison was just beginning, attendance at Camp Randall Stadium was sparse, and that included the current students.
The Badgers needed some help garnering excitement in the product on the field and getting people in the stands. Enter Kenny Dichter.
A sociology major from Long Island, Dichter was the co-owner of Bucky’s on State Street, a store he opened as a freshman. Bucky’s resembles a school bookstore without the books — mugs, cards, sweatpants and some rather rude t-shirts, is how a Wisconsin State Journal article on Oct. 12, 1990 described the establishment.
Dichter helped grow the “Bleacher Creatures,” the group of students who sold season ticket packages to fellow students for home football and men’s basketball games. With the men’s basketball team having some success in the late ’80s and early ’90s (NIT appearances in 1989 and 1991), ticket sales at the UW Field House were good. But Camp Randall Stadium was another story.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal: Dichter rounded up corporate sponsors – including Zenith, McDonald’s and Pizza Pit – to kick in a total of $25,000 for promotion. (In return, the sponsors get their name on the back of the ticket booklet and a banner at the games.) The football booklet sales grew to 6,500 this year (1990) from 4,000 last year.
According to Alvarez, “Kenny came in and presented himself and said, ‘I have a feeling you’re going to win, Coach. I know you want to fill the stadium, and I think I can help you with your plan.’ He said, ‘You have to start with the students.’”
Showing much the same marketing acumen, Dichter has gone on to great heights after graduating from UW-Madison in 1990. He is the co-founder and currently the CEO of Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company whose investors include J.J. Watt and Russell Wilson. Last year Wheels Up was also responsible for transporting the celebrity guest picker to the weekly ESPN College GameDay locations, including Ric Flair to Madison on Oct. 15.
Previously, Dichter founded Marquis Jet in 2001 and Tequila Avion in 2010. He is a regular on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” And despite currently living in New York City, Dichter still shows up at Camp Randall Stadium on occasion. Among other contributions to his alma mater, he and longtime friend Todd Deutsch (also a UW grad) were the lead benefactors on a football facility renovation completed in 2008, named the Dichter-Deutsch Conference Center.
“I always wanted to be involved in a direct way to help Wisconsin sports be on the cutting edge,” Dichter told UWBadgers.com in 2008. And for almost 30 years, he has been.
- Wisconsin Alumni Association 2008 Forward under 40 Award: Kenny Dichter ’90
- UW-Madison alumni fire up students with entrepreneurship stories (Wisconsin State Journal, Oct. 14, 2016)