What began as a Civil War training ground has transformed into one of the most iconic college football stadiums in America. Trace that history and watch as a 10,000-seat stadium is constructed and eventually grows into the modern facility that welcomes more than 80,000 fans on Saturdays in the fall.
Explore the Camp Randall Timeline
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In the early days of the state of Wisconsin, the 50-acre plot bounded by University Avenue, Breese Terrace, Monroe Street and North Randall was owned by the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society. State Fairs, races, and other community events were held where the present day stadium rests. After the Civil War began escalating, the society donated the land to the state to use as a training ground for troops. Soldiers first moved into the area on May 1, 1861.
The land was going to be put up for sale for building lots, but the war veterans sounded their voice, and the state legislature purchased the land from a group of Madison business owners for $25,000. The land was immediately turned over to the university.
The site was first used for athletic events in 1894 as track and field events took place. The first football game was played at the site the following year.
The famous Memorial Arch was constructed in 1911 at the same price that the land was purchased for. The cannons that are still present today were mounted in 1913.
Work began on the current Camp Randall Stadium in 1915 after seven years of petitioning to the state legislature in order to receive the necessary funds to construct a permanent football stadium. The work was slow and immediately fell behind schedule. While playing Minnesota on Nov. 20, 1915, the east-side bleachers collapsed and injured hundreds of spectators. The accident caught the attention of the legislature and the new concrete seating was soon under construction.
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The 40 rows of bleachers, seating close to 10,000 fans, were ready in time for the 1917 opener against Beloit. The first section of seating was built on the hill along Breese Terrace. The hill was used as the foundation for the bleacher section on the west side of the playing surface. Because only 7,500 of the hillside seats were finished in time for the start of the season, and partly to provide dressing facilities, the grandstand section was moved from the south side of the old field to the east side of the new field, adding another 3,000 seats.
After returning to the UW, head coach John R. Richards guides the Badgers to a 34-0 season-opening win over Beloit in the first game at new Camp Randall Stadium.
Camp Randall Stadium hosts its official dedication game, a 10-7 Badgers’ Homecoming victory over Minnesota in front of a capacity of 10,000 fans.
Leo Butts becomes the first known African-American Badger to participate in a varsity football game, entering the lineup as a substitute right guard in UW’s 21-0 win over Beloit College.
4,000 concrete seats were added for $24,872
After a rain-soaked fraternity game at the field, a student living on Breese Terrace called the fire department and reported seeing flames at Camp Randall. By the time the fire department arrived the old wood grandstand was engulfed in flames, and far beyond saving.
In 1924, the capacity had reached 33,000 and there were now seats on all four sides of the field.
Charles Lindbergh, who 15 months earlier became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, returns to Madison and speaks in front of a crowd of approximately 40,000 people at Camp Randall Stadium. Lindbergh was a student at UW-Madison but dropped out in 1922 without receiving his degree.
On the day he returned to Madison, Lindbergh, in the Spirit of St. Louis, circled the Capitol dome three times. He then flew over Camp Randall at a height of 200 feet, then west a few blocks, buzzing the homes of friends in University Heights. Later that day, he dedicated the Memorial Union and sparked the creation of the Dane County Regional Airport.
Lindbergh returned to Madison again a year later to accept an honorary degree from UW.
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The man of many positions, Walter Francis “Mickey Himself” McGuire, in his final home game as a Badger scored all three touchdowns as Wisconsin beat national powerhouse Minnesota, 20-13. McGuire scored on the opening kickoff and closed the day by catching the game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds to play.
A little more than two months before he would win four gold medals and set three world records in the Summer Olympics, Jesse Owens competed in a track meet at Camp Randall Stadium as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes. “The clash was the biggest crowd attraction of any track meet ever held in Camp Randall,” according to the 1937 issue of the Badger Yearbook. An estimated crowd of 6,000 fans watched the meet in the stadium.
Owens did not disappoint, winning all four events he entered and setting world records in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. He set the records just 30 minutes apart. Neither record would stand, however, due to a strong aiding wind. Owens scored 20 points on the day but it wasn’t enough for Ohio State as Wisconsin won the meet, 66 2/3 to 59 1/3.
After taking over for Clarence Spears, Harry Stuhldreher, one of the famed “Four Horsemen” of Notre Dame, leads Wisconsin to a 24-7 victory over South Dakota State in his first game at the helm.
An addition that added 7,500 seats on the east side and built the dormitory under the east side seats is started. The 1940s saw the inclusion of dormitories for students and military personnel in Camp Randall Stadium. The Works Progress Administration, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt to help pull the nation out of depression, constructed the dorms underneath the east bleachers. There was enough room for 150 men to live, as well as a rifle range and boxing and wrestling rooms.
The dorms were initially occupied by naval trainees and, after the war, the dorms were occupied by student veterans. The living quarters were named the Schreiner and Baumann houses in honor of two UW students that were killed in Okinawa during WWII. The dorms were closed in 1951 and converted into offices for the extension department and later became the home to the athletic and military departments.
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Elroy Hirsch is first tagged “˜Crazylegs’ after a 60-yard touchdown run vs. Notre Dame prompted Francis Powers of the Chicago Daily News to say, “His crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions all at the same time.” Hirsch played just one year for the Badgers, rushing for 786 yards, passing for 226 yards and accumulating 390 yards receiving on the way to third-team All-America honors from Look magazine.
Hirsch then entered the Marine Corps and transferred to the University of Michigan, where he finished his collegiate career. Following a 12-year pro career, including three Pro Bowl appearances with the Los Angeles Rams, Hirsch returned to UW to serve as Director of Athletics from 1969-1987.
The sixth-ranked Badgers earned their first win over a top-ranked opponent, beating No. 1 Ohio State 17-7. Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch threw one touchdown pass and accounted for more than 200 yards of total offense.
Paul Bunyan’s Axe, emblematic of superiority in the Wisconsin-Minnesota series, is awarded for the first time to the Golden Gophers after a 16-0 win over the Badgers.
Ivy Williamson earns his first victory as head coach of the Badgers after defeating Marquette 41-0 in UW’s season opener.