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Wisconsin Athletics hits brakes on Camp Randall Stadium renovation
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Wisconsin Athletics hits brakes on Camp Randall Stadium renovation

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Camp Randall rendering cover

A rendering shows a design for remodeling of Camp Randall Stadium to include indoor club space, loge boxes and seats between the south end zone and the Field House.

One of the major construction projects being planned by the University of Wisconsin athletic department is temporarily on hold.

Renovation of the seating section behind the south end zone at Camp Randall Stadium has been pushed back by a year, UW announced Thursday.

The $77 million project that planned to transform rows of bleacher seating into indoor club spaces, small loge boxes and rows of chairback seating now is likely to start in 2021 and be ready for the 2022 season.

The athletic department framed the delay as a scheduling issue and not primarily because of economic concerns.

"We are obviously operating in a time of great uncertainty," UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. "Given our construction timeline and the timing around when decisions had to be made, we felt it was best to be prudent and delay the project for a bit."

Alvarez added that he was "thrilled" with the level of sales for the new seating, saying that the school has commitments for more than 75% of the loge box inventory.

"Once finished, this will be a transformative project for Camp Randall," Alvarez said.

The school was planning to start major components of the premium seating renovation immediately following the final home game of the 2020 football season, scheduled for Nov. 21.

The schedule, however, is in flux because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten Conference has said football teams will play only league games this season — if they're able to play at all.

New schedules haven't been announced, but senior associate athletic director Jason King said the Camp Randall project delay wasn't to accommodate any potential for the 2020 football season to be pushed back.

UW already was facing a tight construction window to have the south end zone project done by the start of the 2021 season, scheduled for Sept. 4.

Already having experienced a coronavirus-related delay with the production of new windows at the Field House, King said UW understood it couldn't afford to have a similar issue at Camp Randall.

"With all that uncertainty, and us needing to start moving on the project here soon for long lead items, we just felt like it was more appropriate at this point in time to pause the project," King said.

Like most college athletic departments, UW would be under major financial challenges if the coronavirus pandemic forces the cancellation of the football season. Football has been responsible for more than 50% of UW Athletics' total revenue in recent seasons, bringing in more than $90 million in the 2018-19 season.

In April, Alvarez credited "sound management of our finances over the years" for the athletic department being able to weather a temporary decline in revenue.

But it was preparing for a revenue drop of at least $4 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year that closed at the end of June and looked for cost savings. UW was hoping to save $2.8 million through voluntary pay cuts for its highest earners and a Work-Share program for around 350 other employees.

UW hasn't responded to a question on whether the Work-Share program, through which employees have their hours reduced by either 20% or 50%, will be extended past the original July 25 end date.

The athletic department also has construction projects ongoing or in the works at its two other major venues, the Field House and the Kohl Center. Those aren't being altered at this point, UW said.

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