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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Camp Randall Memorial Park photographed February 10, 2023.

Construction of new UW-Madison football facility could disrupt veterans memorial park

A late amendment to a deal between UW officals and Republican lawmakers may see the construction of the new Camp Randall Sports Center overlap with the boundaries of a veterans memorial park

A recent amendment to an agreement between Republican state lawmakers and the University of Wisconsin System could allow the construction of the new Camp Randall Sports Center to overlap with the boundaries of the Camp Randall Memorial Park. 

The proposed amendment was introduced by Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, in early February. The amendment comes after the UW Board of Regents and UW Athletic Department in February authorized the reconstruction of Camp Randall Sports Center, also called “The Shell,” to build a $285 million new indoor training facility.  

Jim Gingras, a UW-Madison doctoral student and member of Student Veterans of America, told The Daily Cardinal this decision omitted any involvement from the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs (WBVA) despite the board’s responsibility to maintain and regulate the park.  

The amendment requires the UW Board of Regents to submit a plan to honor Wisconsin veterans to the state Board of Veterans Affairs by June 30, 2024. However, it does not require the plan to involve the veterans park near Camp Randall.

“What this means is the Veterans Memorial Park will no longer be seen as a memorial to soldiers and veterans, but it is instead code for the athletic department to host tailgates and to use the land for themselves,” Gingras said. 

Student veterans currently have limited access to a single on-campus space, according to Gingras. He said veterans often have family responsibilities and don’t return home during holidays, making a dedicated space for connection an important feature for their well-being.  

Gingras said that Camp Randall was historically a military site before hosting athletic facilities. The area was a full-time military training site for Wisconsin soldiers during the Civil War, processing over 70,000 troops. 

After the Civil War, Wisconsin veterans lobbied the Legislature into buying part of the state land that was Camp Randall. Gringas states that the land was then turned over to UW-Madison for a Veterans Memorial Park. 

Both Gingras and the WBVA want to use roughly 10% of the proposed funding to establish the Camp Randall Veterans Project. This initiative ensures members of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) detachments, University Veteran Services and student veterans across campus would all have a place to collaborate and interact with one another.

Gingras said he contacted UW-Madison Vice Chancellor Lori Ressor and talked to UW-Madison senior director of state relations Crystal Potts to try and reach a potential solution but received minimal support. 

Additionally, Gingras said he contacted Born but did not receive a response. 

Neither UW-Madison Athletics nor Born’s office immediately returned a request for comment. 

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Ultimately, Gingras said the WBVA hopes to reach an understanding with the UW Board of Regents that honors and acknowledges the commitment of countless Wisconsin veterans.

“Let’s not fight, we can find a win-win solution,” Gingras said. “We have an opportunity to do something meaningful across the whole campus that benefits both student-athletes and the military. All we have to do is come to an agreement.”

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