Badger football season has come around once again, but as University of Wisconsin-Madison students have begun their annual pilgrimage Camp Randall stadium, many have noticed some changes that have garnered mixed reviews.
This year marks the beginning of a 10-year concessions arrangement between UW-Madison and Learfield Levy Foodservice, who will be selling Dr Pepper Snapple Group soft drinks at games in Camp Randall Stadium.
This ends a 10-year tradition of local middle and high school students selling concessions as part of a program sponsored by nonprofit group The W Club.
But when the new company began serving at the first game of the season on Aug. 31, complaints of longer lines and a steep decline in quality of service led the UW Athletic Department to issue an email apology to season ticket holders after the game.
“Unfortunately, some of you had an unsatisfactory experience with our concessions operations at today’s game,” Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said in the email. “We are committed to providing outstanding customer service and today we did not meet your expectations. We apologize for the inconvenience you may have experienced.”
Another change affecting concessions is the Badgers’ recent switch to BadgerMax, a line of isotonic sports drinks and waters that are also being sold to patrons at Camp Randall for a price increase over last year’s regular bottled water.
But for student ticket holders, the concessions overhaul may not be the biggest change at their football home this year.
For the 2013 season, the Athletic Department has implemented a new seating policy that assigns student ticket holders a section and seats them on a first come, first serve basis within that section. Under the old system, students were given a specific seat number, and difficulties with monitoring seating led to a high number of ejections.
According to UW-Madison Police Department Spokesperson Marc Lovicott, arrest rates are down since the change although UWPD has not noticed a significant change since the implementation of the new policy.
“Every single year we have issues when it comes to seating, when it comes to alcohol use, when it comes to fan behavior,” Lovicott said. “I wouldn’t say that anything has changed from our perspective … while there have been some changes that may have affected seating, we haven’t noticed anything from a police or behavior perspective at all.”
Lovicott said game time has a much bigger impact on police activity and the early game time—both at 11 a.m.—could explain the change in arrests.
“We, for some reason, see a lot more police activity with night games,” Lovicott said. “We have our first later start coming up this weekend, a 2:30 p.m. game, and we expect that we’ll see a lot more people out and have to deal with some alcohol issues. For some reason, the later the game, the more issues we tend to see, whether that’s alcohol issues or seating issues or fan behavior.”
For UW-Madison students, the change in the seating policy seems to be welcome.
“I think it’s nice to not have to worry about finding a specific seat,” UW-Madison junior and three-time season ticket holder Kody Greenbaum said. “You just flow in a little easier. It gives you a little more freedom if you have friends sitting in the same section as you … it’s a little easier to choose who you sit with.”
UW-Madison junior and first-time season ticket holder Jenny Corley echoed the sentiment, but said she thinks freedom at the games could expand further.
“I like it better that there’s not assigned seats,” she said. “I think it’d be better, though, if they just had a certain [number] of seats and you didn’t even have a section.”