Responding to fan requests for hand rails in aisles of the seating sections at Camp Randall Stadium, the University of Wisconsin athletic department has launched a test project for next season.
UW will install railings in the stairs between two sections in the lower bowl and two sections in the upper deck and examine the impact on traffic flow during football games in the 2019 season, the department announced Monday.
Senior associate athletic director Jason King called it a first step toward addressing safety concerns UW has heard in recent years.
“This isn’t one of those things where necessarily it’s easy just to go in and say, hey, we’re going to make this mass change in a facility that’s 100 years old,” King said. “But what we’re saying is, we hear you and we’re trying to find a solution that’s going to work for everybody that’s involved and make sure that people can operate safely in our facilities.”
The trial railings will be between sections B and C on the lower level and between BB and CC in the upper deck. Those areas were chosen, King said, because athletics personnel, the UW Police Department and the Madison Fire Department can monitor them with dedicated video cameras.
Officials will use what they find during the seven home football games next season to evaluate whether outfitting the entire, 80,321-seat stadium is a worthwhile venture, King said.
He said the price tag of installing stair railings throughout the seating areas would be between $300,000 and $400,000 but didn’t have an exact cost for this year’s trial.
A number of factors beyond safety for those going up and down stairs are in play. For instance, it’s uncertain until they’re installed how the hand rails will impact sight lines for fans.
King said, however, that question falls behind efficiency of movement through the aisles in terms of priorities for the test. He said he didn’t have information on the number of spectator falls on steps at Camp Randall, or whether they would have been prevented if hand rails had been present.
“We recognize that there’s a group of people that would love if we were able to put it all over the stadium right now,” King said. “But this is the first step, and we’re excited to be able to be moving forward.”