Wisconsin seeks new athletics facility

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin athletic officials are asking for a $76.8 million athletic performance center in the next two-year state budget, five years after a $109.5-million expansion of Camp Randall Stadium.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will review the request Thursday.

The proposal includes a new multistory building used primarily for football with new locker rooms and weight training facilities for all athletes.

The Regents agreed to a similar $67.2 million plan in the last budget cycle two years ago, but it was spiked by state officials in the approval process.

The proposal includes money to update the sound system and scoreboards at Camp Randall, add new locker rooms for other athletic teams and replace the FieldTurf installed six seasons ago.

The McClain Center, where several teams now practice, would also be updated.

"A whole new facility would really bring this program to a top-notch level where you could say it's second to none," quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "We'd have the locker room right there, the stadium right here and all those facilities literally just footsteps away. I think that would be huge with recruiting and with trying to raise this program to the next level."

The Badgers, nicknamed for lead miners who burrowed into the hillsides in the 19th century like the animal of the same name, may be doing more digging underneath the old stadium.

The plans call for two tunnels to be built, connecting the new locker room in the proposed performance center and the stadium to the antiquated McClain Center, constructed in 1988. The locker room would include multimedia space, recovery rooms, steam and shower rooms and a coaches suite nearby.

According to the proposal, the athletics department would borrow $50 million against its program's revenue and expects $26.8 million in gifts and grants to pay for it. According to a fundraising document, officials are asking for $7 million for naming rights to the building.

"Any time you see places that have 80,000, 90,000 or 100,000 paying all sorts of money to come [to games] and have conference and local TV and radio contracts, those programs are making loads of money," Western Kentucky University sports economist Brian Goff said. "It makes some sense over some time frame to reinvest your capital and keep yourself competitive against the people you're trying to recruit against."

The proposal says bond payments would be made using ticket revenue and the anticipated increase in funds from the Big Ten's expansion, the conference championship game beginning in 2011 and usage fees paid by UW Hospital and Clinics, which would run the sports medicine clinic on the third floor of the building.

The locker room would be in the lowest level of the performance center with two floors for a new strength and conditioning center. The fourth level would be used by the nearby College of Engineering and a partial fifth floor could be shelled for expansion or as outdoor event space.

"The needs of the athletic programs expanded over the years and the McClain Center now supports all 23 sports and 750 athletes in some fashion," according to the proposal. "This facility has essentially become the 'hub' for all UW-Madison student athletes."

Wide receiver Nick Toon remembers going to Notre Dame on a visit a few years ago and being in awe, even though it didn't sway his opinion to come to Madison, near where he grew up.

"Notre Dame, they had just redone their facilities and they were awesome," Toon said. "Really, the newer the better."

If approved, construction on the new building would begin in December 2011 and be completed by October 2013. The work in Camp Randall would take four months after the end of the 2011 season and should be finished in time for spring practice in 2012. The McClain Center upgrades would be done over 2½ years starting in April 2012.