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Planned Kohl Center addition focuses mostly on space for athlete services
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Planned Kohl Center addition focuses mostly on space for athlete services

Kohl Center addition rendering

A rendering looking to the east from Southwest Commuter Path shows the design for an addition to the Kohl Center.

The Kohl Center’s surroundings and interior touches have been altered since it opened in 1998, but the building itself has never been added onto.

That’s due to change over the next 3½ years as the University of Wisconsin athletic department embarks on a $42 million project targeted mostly at adding space for athlete services.

Included in plans for a 42,000 square foot, three-story addition to be built over the southwest corner loading dock are expanded facilities for academics, sports medicine and strength and conditioning.

Preliminary designs show each of those areas at least doubling in size compared to the existing Kohl Center layout, said Jason King, UW’s senior associate athletic director for capital projects and operations.

“In some of our areas, there was a definite need to have more space,” he said. “So when we evaluated that, this seemed like a really natural project. This was a priority for us.”

Madison’s Urban Design Commission had a favorable reaction to an informational presentation on the plans Wednesday. Commissioners complimented the design for blending in with the existing building and not looking like an addition.

UW is targeting a start of construction in late 2020 or early 2021, with the project’s completion expected in 2023.

Design concepts show a glass front facing the Southwest Commuter Path across the railroad tracks to the south of the proposed addition. A 9,000 square foot strength and conditioning area and sports medicine and rehab rooms are on the main concourse level.

Academic services get the addition on the mezzanine level, with classroom and tutoring spaces. The Kohl Center hosts basketball and men’s hockey games but also offers academic services for members of other teams.

“Our academic center is severely undersized,” King said. “This will give them much more of what they need. Our goal is to provide the same services that we’re providing at Camp Randall over at the Kohl Center.”

In 2014, UW opened the Stephen M. Bennett Student-Athlete Performance Center at Camp Randall Stadium with academics, fitness and sports medicine facilities. The athletic department considers that a hub for some of its sports; the Kohl Center is the other.

The addition to the Kohl Center includes new offices for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and potentially the swimming team on the upper level.

Plans also show renovations of around 22,000 square feet of the existing Kohl Center. That work includes expanding the basketball locker rooms, creating a new nutrition hub and moving the media room to make way for a premium club space.

The project is in the planning stages at the same time as UW is moving forward on a renovation at Camp Randall Stadium to add premium seating.

The State Building Commission last month approved the $77.646 million project to change the south end zone seating from bleachers to a combination of seats and three club areas.

In its request for approval, UW noted a favorable market study on premium seating for football games and a waiting list for existing club seats that grows by around 35 seats per year.

King said there were “positive responses” after UW unveiled the project without specifics on Oct. 10.

The Camp Randall project also includes upgrades for the press box, restoration of the north facade of the Field House that faces into the stadium and replacement of the FieldTurf.

Work at Camp Randall is expected to take place between the end of the 2020 football season and the start of the 2021 home campaign.

“It’s aggressive, but we feel like it can be done,” King said of the compressed timeline. “It’s going to be a good project. It’s going to be something that hasn’t been done to Camp Randall since 2004, when the suites were done.”

The athletic department also is starting to plan for the future of the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center adjacent to the stadium. Athletics is buying the Shell from UW Recreational Sports once a replacement for the Gymnasium/Natatorium is constructed on the same Observatory Drive site.

Tentative plans call for that project to start construction in early 2021 and be complete by the end of 2022.

The Shell contains a six-lane, 200-meter running track, basketball courts, cardio equipment and an ice rink. It opened in 1954.

“That building has its challenges, so we’re going to need to be prepared to do something,” King said.

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