The stadium lies on the grounds of Camp Randall, a former Union Army training camp during the Civil War. The camp was named after then Governor Alexander Randall, who later became Postmaster General of the United States.
After an outcry from veterans over plans to turn the site into building lots, the state bought it in 1893 and presented it to the university. Soon afterward, it was pressed into service as an athletic ground. It was originally used by the track and field team before the football and baseball teams moved there in 1895. However, the wooden bleachers were very difficult to maintain, and a portion of them were actually condemned as unsafe in 1914. The university then asked for $40,000 to build a concrete-and-steel stadium, but only got half of the original request. However, after three sections of bleachers collapsed during a 1915 game, the state readily granted the additional money. The new stadium opened for the first time on October 6, 1917. It consisted of 7,500 concrete seats—roughly corresponding to the lower portion of the current stadium's east grandstand—and 3,000 wooden seats from the old field.
After the wooden seats burned down in 1922, more permanent seats were added in stages until it consisted of a horseshoe opening to the south, with a running track around the field. The stadium was renovated at various points to raise the size of the horseshoe by nearly doubling the number of rows around the stadium in stages, placing south stands in front of the Wisconsin Field House (built in 1930), the removal of the track and addition of nearly 11,000 seats in 1958, the addition of the upper deck in 1966, and finally the 2005 addition of boxes along the eastern rim of the stadium.
Originally natural grass, the field was one of the first in the United States to convert to artificial turf in 1968. Superturf was installed in 1980, and a new AstroTurf field was installed in 1990, and replaced in 1998. A new type of artificial grass, infilled FieldTurf, was installed for the 2003 season, replaced after the spring term in time for the 2012 season.
The stadium also houses athletic offices of the university. In 2002, a large-scale reconstruction project commenced, which added luxury boxes, a five-story office building, and separate football program offices. In addition, concessions, restrooms and other infrastructure items were upgraded, the walkway around the field was removed, and new scoreboards were installed. The construction was completed prior to the start of the 2004 season. The football team continued to play at the stadium throughout the construction.
Also during this period of reconstruction at the stadium, changes were made to the visiting team locker room. Known as one of the best visiting team locker rooms in the Big Ten Conference, it was initially painted a bright pink, a color thought to affect the play of the visiting team (similar to Iowa's pale pink visiting locker room). The UW Athletic Dept. decided that the color may irritate the opposing team and had the room painted a pale shade of blue called "prison blue", named for the shade of paint used in Wisconsin Department of Corrections facility cells, which is intended to have a "calming effect." Since this change, the Badgers have had a 43–4 home record.
The numbers of Wisconsin's two Heisman Trophy winners, Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne, are displayed on the upper deck façade. Both of their numbers (35 and 33, respectively) are retired; The retired numbers of Elroy Hirsch (40), Dave Schreiner (80), Allan Schafer (83), and Pat Richter (88) were added during the 2006 football season.
At Barry Alvarez's final game as head coach in 2005, plans were announced to place a statue of him in the Stadium's Kellner Plaza. The bronze statue was unveiled in 2006 on October 13. On November 17, it was joined by a similar statue of former UW athlete and athletic director Pat Richter.
Announced in the fall of 2010 and to be completed in January 2014, the Student Athlete Performance Center, an expansion of Camp Randall to the north, included a new scoreboard, academic and strength training facilities, multimedia instructional space, lower-level football team access tunnel, and renovated locker rooms, shower rooms and equipment space. Although the new scoreboard is listed as being 50 feet by 170 feet, the large Daktronics screen size is 4,271 square feet (per @BadgerFootball), with two smaller screens flanking either side.
On October 30, 1993, Wisconsin defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 13–10, for the first time since 1981. As the final gun sounded, students began to charge the field to celebrate, but were blocked by the guardrails surrounding the field. The crowd in the back, not aware of what was going on at the front, continued to move forward, aided by gravity. Those in front were crushed against the rails and then trampled when the rails finally gave way and the throng spilled onto the field. There were no fatalities, but 73 students were injured, six of them critically. Several Badgers football players assisted with removing the injured from the tangle; some of them were medical students and administered CPR to many victims who were not breathing. Per Mar Security (stadium security) and the University of Wisconsin were later found liable for this situation.
As a result, design changes were made in the stadium which increased the size and strength of the fences, along with better training of stadium personnel to handle a field rush. A field rush on October 16, 2010, after a defeat of #1 Ohio State proved the measures taken after 1993 worked, and only one minor injury took place as UW and Madison Police instead assisted students onto the field in a safe manner and opened up gates onto the field.
Badger football events at Camp Randall Stadium include numerous traditions. Some of these include:
In 1969, the Badgers had lost 24 straight games, and Michael Leckrone took over the Wisconsin Marching Band. Working with athletic director Elroy Hirsch, Leckrone and the band created a fan event called "The Fifth Quarter", that took place at the end of the game.
Songs typically played during the Fifth Quarter include "On Wisconsin," "You've Said It All" (also known as the "Bud" song, referring to its beginning as a jingle in a Budweiser beer commercial), "Space Badgers" (A variation on the opening to Also sprach Zarathustra), "Dance Little Bird" (The Chicken Dance), "Beer Barrel Polka," "Tequila," and "Hey Baby." Many spectators remain in the stands for twenty minutes after the game to enjoy the performance. Many of the songs are associated with specific choreography in which the band, cheerleaders and the audience all participate.
At the end of the Fifth Quarter, the band lines up to play "Varsity" as the spectators sing. The band then exits the field via the north entrance to perform more and sing "It's Hard to Be Humble," after which the band marches to the Mosse Humanities Building, where it is dismissed.
The Fifth Quarter was officially named in 1978, and its traditions have been passed down since then.
Another tradition at UW football games is the "Jump Around", where fans dance to the House of Pain song of the same name. This takes place between the third and fourth quarters. The tradition began on Saturday, October 10, 1998, at the Badgers' Homecoming game against the Purdue Boilermakers. After no offensive points were scored in the third quarter, the Badgers' marketing agent in charge of sound piped the song through the loudspeakers. It stirred up fans and players and has become a tradition of the last decade.
However, on September 6, 2003, (the Badgers' first home game of the season), with construction of the skyboxes surrounding the stadium, UW officials decided to cancel the "Jump Around" tradition that had been a staple for five years. Stadium security and the local police department had been informed of this decision, but no notification had been given to the fans. As the fourth quarter began and students realized there had been no "Jump Around", they became upset. Some jumped around without the requisite music. Then an entire section sat down in protest, a majority directed their middle finger at the sound booth, and a chant of "Fuck the sound guy" began. Sitting down was particularly significant as the student section generally stands on the bleachers while the team is playing. Chanting and booing continued through the majority of the fourth quarter. With 6:29 to go in the game, Lee Evans scored on a 99-yard play and led the Badgers to a victory, thrilling the crowd.
When news surfaced on Monday, September 8, 2003, that this event was not a technical or human malfunction, but rather a decision by campus officials, the students launched a protest. Petitions circulated and students pushed back against administration. Structural engineers confirmed that the stadium would suffer no structural damage caused by the vibrations created by jumping. Two days later, Chancellor John D. Wiley announced that the "Jump Around" tradition would resume.
The stadium is also used by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association for its state football championships.
The Green Bay Packers have played 12 exhibition games at Camp Randall, which, up until 2013, had a larger seating capacity than the Packers' home stadium, Lambeau Field. The series began in 1986, shortly after the Chicago Bears began to use nearby University of Wisconsin-Platteville as a training camp site. The most recent pre-season Packers game at Camp Randall was in 1999.
The University of Wisconsin men's and women's ice hockey teams each played an outdoor hockey game at Camp Randall Stadium on February 6, 2010, as part of the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic. The Wisconsin women defeated Bemidji State 6–1, while the Badger men beat Michigan 3–2.
Camp Randall has also hosted a number of major concerts, including: Pink Floyd (May 20, 1988, and July 3, 1994), Genesis (June 9, 1992), U2 (September 13, 1992, and June 25, 1997) & The Rolling Stones (August 26, 1994, and October 6, 1997)
Drum Corps International used the stadium as the site for its world championships in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1999, 2002, and 2006.
The Camp Randall athletic complex includes three additional facilities: the Field House, home to the UW basketball teams until January 1998, and now the wrestling and women's volleyball teams; the Dave McClain Athletic Facility, an indoor football practice facility named for the late Badgers football coach, Dave McClain, which also houses locker rooms for football, men's and women's track, and softball, and strength and conditioning, sports medicine, and academic services; and the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center ("The Shell"), which contains a 200-meter indoor track that surrounds facilities for intramural sports. The indoor track is used by the UW track teams during their indoor seasons. The Shell also houses a practice ice sheet.
Note: Streaks do not include ties.
The following are the ten largest crowds in stadium history:1. 83,184 November 12, 2005 vs Iowa
2. 83,069 November 6, 2004 vs #24 Minnesota
3. 83,022 September 24, 2005 vs #13 Michigan
4. 82,828 October 22, 2005 vs Purdue
5. 82,630 September 22, 2007 vs Iowa
6. 82,468 October 23, 2004 vs Northwestern
7. 82,352 November 10, 2007 vs #13 Michigan
8. 82,330 October 1, 2005 vs Indiana
9. 82,306 October 2, 2004 vs Illinois
10. 82,179 September 25, 2004 vs Penn State