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Monday, May 20, 2024
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The Camp Randall Sports Center (often known as the Shell), photographed Feb. 11, 2023. 

Regents’ authorization of Shell replacement leaves some student athletes worried about practice space

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents authorized a reconstruction project for the Camp Randall Sports Center Thursday which would turn the former workout facility into an indoor football training center.

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents on Thursday authorized a reconstruction project for the Camp Randall Sports Center — colloquially known as “the Shell” — that would turn the former workout facility into an indoor football training center.

The Shell closed for public access in April 2023, with UW Athletics taking ownership over the facility. The project will also demolish the McClain Center, a training facility used for various UW Athletics teams since 1988. 

Both the Shell reconstruction and McClain demolition, alongside the other capital projects authorized by the Regents, passed in a unanimous Feb. 7 vote by the state Legislature’s budget-writing committee. The projects still await a full floor vote and signature from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who prioritized the renovations in his proposed 2023-25 capital budget.

Since opening in 1956, the Shell has served students as a place to work out, train and hold team practices. With its recent closure, many students — particularly those who used the Shell’s special facilities — said they were affected by the loss. 

“[The Shell] is the only real indoor track that we have in the Madison area,” said Michael Kuhn, a senior UW-Madison student and Wisconsin Track Club member. “A true 200-meter track where you’re not rounding these unnatural corners or running on a felt surface.”

In the time since the Shell’s closure, athletic clubs looking for an indoor track have been directed to the Bakke Recreation and Wellbeing Center, the $113.2 million dollar facility opened in April 2023. They say it’s been an insufficient replacement.

“[The Bakke track] is absolutely not regulation,” Kuhn said. “The turns are super sharp — you almost have to come to a complete stop if you want to do your rep.” 

For some students who live further away from the Nicholas Recreation Center and the Bakke, the two current campus-accessible workout facilities at UW-Madison, the Shell’s location was ideal.

“[The Shell] was super convenient because so many people live in that area — around Klief Park, or in the ‘sophomore slums’ and around Regent Street,” Kuhn said. 

Construction for Camp Randall Sports Center replacement and the McClain facility demolition is estimated to cost over $285 million, according to a report from the Regents Capital Planning and Budget Committee. The new project looks to maximize existing space by replacing underutilized facilities and save revenue by reducing maintenance costs, according to the committee report.

The Board of Regents report referred to both the Shell and the McClain Center as “underutilized and obsolete facilities,” but some UW-Madison students disagreed. 

“That doesn’t really make sense to me,” said Tommy Dougherty, track club president. “A lot of people loved the Shell. A lot of my friends preferred the Shell over the Nick, not just for track training, but for other workouts as well.”

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In the interim, club athletes have worked toward an agreement with RecWell and Badger Athletics to utilize the track in the time until its demolition. The agreement, a $200 per-practice stipend, was finalized earlier this month. 

But Dougherty said that raises affordability concerns for other athletic clubs unwilling to pay the sum.

“We’re the only club signed up to use the Shell because we’re the only club willing to pay that $200 for the track,” Dougherty said. 

The Regents’ committee report estimates the project’s construction to start in August 2024, with a projected final completion in December 2026.

the shell-1.jpg
The Camp Randall Athletics Center (often known as the Shell), photographed Feb. 11, 2023.
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