Union Terrace

UW-Madison Hoofers Sailing Club boats line the shore of Lake Mendota. A $4.5 million pier replacement project will move some boats off shore and onto a floating pier during the sailing season. 

The view from one of UW-Madison’s most iconic campus spots, the Union Terrace, is going to look a little different next summer.

A $4.5 million project to replace the 40-year-old pier system will revamp the marina, improving the sailing experience for the more than 1,000 students, staff and community members who make up the Hoofer Sailing Club, according to Wisconsin Union officials.

Even for the everyday Terrace-goer, the project will bring noticeable changes.

“It’s basically a full redesign of what our lakefront will look like,” Wisconsin Union director Mark Guthier told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Union Terrace

The view from Union Terrace will change after a pier replacement project. The non-taxpayer funded project will put more boats in the lake, add green space and install a permanent deck. 

The non-taxpayer-funded project relies on donations, $1 million of which came from the Tong family, whose name will grace the new marina.

Ground was broken on the project earlier this month, with work to get under way in earnest on Monday.

Among the highlights of the project:

Year-round deck structure

A permanent deck structure will hug the shoreline and remain in place year-round. The deck will sit above the water, so ice will not push against it in the winter, Wisconsin Union president Mills Botham said.

The deck will have almost twice as much square footage along the shoreline as the current one, giving sailors more space to move around and work with equipment, he said.

Four piers will connect to the deck, each of which will still need to be put up and taken down each spring and fall.

Marina Rendering

A rendering depicts a permanent deck hugging Mendota's shoreline. Four piers will connect to the deck. 

More boats in Lake Mendota

There have always been boats bobbing in Lake Mendota’s mooring field, a section of the lake beyond the piers where boats are attached to buoys. The piers, however, have only been used for launching and landing, so when not in use, most boats sat on the concrete sidewalk area near the university’s Center for Limnology.

Three of the four piers will remain used for launching and landing, but the fourth, a T-shaped floating pier, will have space built into its frame for about 30 boats to stay for the entire sailing season, Botham said.

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Marina Rendering

A rendering of the pier replacement project depicts a T-shaped pier that will have about 30 bunks for boats to stay. The boats were previously kept off shore.

More green space, less concrete

Moving 30 boats onto the floating pier frees up space on shore where the boats were previously kept.

Instead of keeping that space in concrete, the Wisconsin Union will devote a 330-foot-long by 24-foot-wide section to be dedicated green space. A rendering shows trees will be planted and benches added.

A filtration system will be installed underneath the green space, where runoff will be sifted through, so there will be less pollution in the lake, Botham said.

Marina Rendering

A rendering shows more green space will be added along Mendota's lakefront as part of the pier replacement project.

New platform for lifting boats

Renderings show a small, triangular platform jutting out into the lake.

Mills said the platform is needed to accommodate the club’s new crane that will launch boats into the lake. The new crane has a 10,000-pound loading capacity, which means all of the club’s boats can be lifted into the water. The club’s current crane isn’t capable of lifting some of the club’s heaviest boats.

Marina Rendering

A new crane, seen in the bottom left corner of this rendering, will have a larger loading capacity so all Hoofer Sailing Club boats can easily be lifted into and out of Lake Mendota.

‘Best in Midwest’

UW-Madison’s piers are 40 years old, and their replacements will give the lakefront a more aesthetically pleasing look, Botham said.

The overall project will also transform the marina into “one of the finest collegiate sailing centers in the country, and the best in the Midwest,” said Botham, a current UW-Madison student who spent a year and a half on the university’s sailing team.

Union officials anticipate the marina will re-open May 1.

Botham will graduate in May. After years of raising money for the project, working with companies on its design and coordinating with the state Department of Natural Resources on permitting, Botham said he plans to stay in Madison at least one more summer to enjoy the end result.

Editor's note: The story has been updated to include the first name and title of Mills Botham.

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