We are coming to you Live from chilly Madison, Wisconsin, where this weekend featured a visit to the University of Wisconsin and pair of new facilities. Flights were smooth as I checked into the hotel on the Capital Square around Midnight Friday Night and after an on and off sleep, I got up early to check out the Farmers Market. Its a pretty cool set-up as there are stands on the sidewalks surrounding the capitol. Lots of great stuff here and I made sure to pick up a couple blocks of cheese. Right nearby was the Wisconsin Historical Museum, where I spent a few hours (it was empty, I guess nobody cares to see history on Badgers football game day). After a quick bite to eat, I caught the Bucky Bus for a shuttle to the game. I wanted to spend a lot of time in and around the stadium and the bus was an agonizingly frustrating way of doing that. I figured it would be a 15-20 minute ride between the stops to Camp Randall Stadium. Instead, it turned into a 50 minute journey, with half that time just sitting at the stops and waiting for people to walk on. Why the driver didn’t just pick up and go is beyond me, but it drove me and a few others nuts.
Finally after getting to the stadium, I only had about an hour to wander and there is plenty to see. Camp Randall has some awesome features on the outside, a lot of which honors the long history of the site, which was used as a civil war training ground before turning into an athletic facility. The arch honoring that history was terrific. Wisconsin also does a tremendous job with displays as the Hall of Fame on the outside is beautiful and the Badger Alley historical displays inside on the concourse are great as well. Inside, what a great layout and the University has tastefully made renovations that fit the 95 year old stadium very well. Good sightlines and despite my last row in the upper deck seat, the game view was fine. There were tons of red in the stadium and though it wasn’t deafening, fans made for a festive atmosphere. Led by the students (which by the way, were slow to arrive), there were several songs that everybody sang along too. I was pumped to see Jump Around and it did not disappoint as I joined in. The Badgers overcame a slow start and Montee Ball finished strong as they went on to beat Illinois 31-14. Though I was shivering at the end, it was well worth staying for the fifth quarter as the UW marching band is tremendous.
I skipped State Street at night, opting for a shower to warm up and a burger at a nearby place. However, I’ll be checking out State Street and Madison’s other hot spots later in the week during the conference. Sunday, it was another early start to self-tour the State Capitol building before heading back to UW. Stadium #129 was the destination and it would be UW Field House for a women’s volleyball game.
This was another very old venue, one that is actually on the National Register of Historical Places. The arena is attached to the stadium, though you can certainly see the awesome old architecture on the outside. Inside is wonderfully old school as the interior seems untouched since the 1920s. I am a sucker for unique seating bowls and this one certainly delivers with odd angles, obstruction beams and funky features. Add in a lot of UW red and I can overlook the bleacher only seating as this is a great arena. Volleyball has a nice home and the support shows why Madison is one of the great college towns. The Badgers have ranked Top 5 in attendance nationally the last several years and even with the Packers playing, they drew a very respectable 3,704. Wisconsin made the crowd happy as they dominated Michigan for a 25-20, 25-18, 25-20 win. Poor Michigan as they have been the road team for both volleyball matches that I’ve seen and they have yet to win a set.
After the game, I walked over to the Stadium Bar to catch the rest of the early NFL games and then sulk while the Bills got dismantled (easing the pain were a few other Buffalo fans that I could complain with). Afterwards, I grabbed dinner with a co-worker who arrived in town as we went to the Old Fashioned, which had an awesome beer selection. The next few days it’s off to the NWA Conference and we’ll probably check out State Street and the Memorial Union during the evenings. Its been amazing getting to these two venues while in Madison and am really glad it worked out as both were great stadium experiences. Look for both reviews up next weekend or the week after.