Camp Randall Conundrum

The homeowners near Camp Randall need to embrace game day, not complain about it

Eric Olive is unhappy. And worried.

At least according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Here is the WSJ quote regarding Eric and his consternation. “Eric Olive, who lives about five blocks from the stadium on Chandler Street, said he accepts that there will be noise and additional traffic on football Saturdays, but not weeknights. He said he feared for the safety of his 8-year-old daughter because of the extra traffic ... ‘I think it’s rude,’ Olive said. ‘I think it’s disruptive. I think it’s unnecessary.’”

Eric is not alone. There are other people who live near Camp Randall who have voiced their concern about crowds, drunken behavior, noise and traffic. They don’t like it.

Well, that is unfortunate. Obviously no one condones rude behavior and public peeing.

But as someone who grew up in that neighborhood and worked there for two decades, let me suggest that there is another way to look in the kaleidoscope, that the people who move into the Camp Randall neighborhood, and then choose to complain about it, are oneof the following … A. Unintelligent, B. Naïve,C. Selfish or D. All of the above.

And, moreover, there is a very sane, rational and compassionate argument to be made that Camp Randall is actually an underused facility for Madisonians and Wisconsinites.

Before investigating that position, let’s review why kvetching about Camp Randall could be unintelligent, naïve and selfish.

First, Camp Randall has been a stadium since 1917. Prior to that it was a military training ground and prison camp, with soldiers peeing everywhere. If you have invested in a home in that neighborhood any time in the last 150 years, unaware of the site and its attendant activities, you were not a smart buyer. In fact, it could be argued that you are dumb. And that is actually not a problem for the citizenry. That is a problem for you. And you should move. Because no one should be unhappy about where they live.

Further, if you bought in the Camp Randall neighborhood thinking you would not be affected by the nearly 80,000 visitors who swing by your house six or seven times a year, you are at least naïve. Most other adult humans know that you are bound to encounter a few asses out of 80,000 people. That is simply common sense. And if you lack common sense, you are naïve.

Also, before complaining, the few unhappy folks in the neighborhood under consideration would be wise to consider the impact of Badger football at Camp Randall in its totality, lest you be accused of selfishness.

The games bring in millions of dollars to the local economy and the coffers of one of the greatest public universities in the world. These revenues fuel research, tuition control, minority scholarships, non-income sports, small-business vitality, local charities, food suppliers, lawn parkers, T-shirt hawkers and, yes, liquor stores.

But the common benefit is more than money. The games are a celebration of community, in a neighborhood that belongs to us all, not just a few. These gatherings allow us to have fun in a way that answers a basic human need for togetherness, tribal ritual and celebration. Camp Randall games also create a national focus on our city, state and people in a unique and most times flattering way. Yes, there are excesses, but those negatives are far outweighed by the benefit to all.

So if you have moved near Camp Randall but see only how your small life is affected, well, then, you just don’t get it. And you should move.

Because there should actually be MORE events at Camp Randall, not fewer. Madisonians still talk about the concerts of U2, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd that were held at Camp Randall. (OK, Genesis, not so much.) These live performances were a cultural event like no other.

But the music, and the people who liked it, drew complaints from the neighbors.

So no Simon and Garfunkel on a warm summer night. How sad that a few should deny such bliss for so many.

But back to Mr. Olive. It is a sad thing that you are upset. As a dad, I respect your concern for your daughter. The Nails Tails sculpture alone would be cause for great paternal frenzy if my daughters were walking past it every day.

But as someone who grew up as a child on the streets of Regent and Monroe, I learned the valuable skill of adaptation, developing the skills required to cross those streets safely. And to this day I cherish the memories of the games, marching bands and the visitors from afar.

Perhaps your daughter will too, and then you will be able to see past frustration to the joy we all get from visiting your neighborhood.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at


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