Madison's 100-Year-Olds: Capitol & Camp Randall

Celebrating with 100 Years, 100 Miles with Soerens: Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium & the State Capitol

Highlights: Wisconsin State Capitol, Camp Randall Stadium

Soerens Ford is celebrating 100 Years in 2017, a Century of Nice. That’s a long history!

I’m Eric Paulsen, and along with playing Milwaukee’s Greatest Hits for you on 95.7 BIG FM every day from 10-3 and co-hosting the TV show Discover Wisconsin, I love to explore Wisconsin’s fascinating history. Did you know Wisconsin created the first numbered road system in the world? That happened 100 years ago, too. I even built a road trip website,, around it. So we’ve teamed up!

This time, Soerens sent me out in a sweet new Ford F150. Red, like the Wisconsin Badgers! Fitting too, since we went to Madison to look at two other jewels in the state celebrating 100 years in 2017.

It was a smooth ride with a great view – with those large windows in that roomy cab you can see all around – on I-94 on the short ride to the city described by some as “77 square miles surrounded by reality.” UW-Madison is my alma mater and two of my favorite things in this beautiful city include the Wisconsin State Capitol and Camp Randall, which – like Soerens – opened in 1917.

Wisconsin State Capitol

Our State Capitol is without question one of the most beautiful in the country. Perched atop Madison’s beautiful isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, it’s the third Capitol building on this site and was completed in 1917. Four wings holding offices stretch out from a central Rotunda capped with the only granite dome in the country. The statue atop the dome, officially named Wisconsin, reaches 284 feet, 5 inches high and faces direction of Washington, DC. It was intentionally designed to be a few inches shorter than the United States Capitol. Inside, Edwin Blashfield’s mural covers the Rotunda’s interior and depicts Wisconsin’s many resources. 

The Capitol dome from the Rotunda.

On a visit, you can explore the passageways, the Rotunda, and lay your fingers on 43 varieties of stone and a series of mosaics and fossils including coral, starfish, gastropods, and more. Weather permitting, you can head up to the fourth floor and go outside to the observation deck where you can gaze upon the city from the base of the dome and browse the fascinating artifacts and photos inside. This year, the center of the Rotunda features “A Century of Stories”, displays and exhibits taking you through the State Capitol’s 100-year history. They include previous Capitol buildings on this block (there were several), major events that happened in and around the Capitol, and people who have shaped the state’s past, present, and future.

They also make laws in this building, and a Capitol Tour brings you to offices, chambers, and other areas where elected representatives do their work. Plenty of shops, restaurants, bars, and museums surround the Capitol on the Square too; you can occupy a whole day just exploring this block! Free guided Capitol tours are available seven days a week, see below for times. Get a virtual reality tour of the Capitol here

Address:Wisconsin State Capitol2 E Main StreetMadison, WI 53702Information: 608-266-0382

Tours Monday-Saturday at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm; Sundays at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, a 4pm tour is also available Monday-Friday.

Camp Randall Stadium

It’s one of the 50 largest stadiums in the world, rose from a former Civil War camp, and hosts what we’ll argue (effectively, as a matter of fact) the best college football atmosphere in the country: Camp Randall Stadium. It’s the oldest stadium in the Big Ten Conference and its fifth largest, with an official seating capacity of 80,321. It was the largest stadium in the state until Lambeau Field’s most recent renovation.

Let's Go Red!! The slick F-150 from Soerens Ford matches Bucky's colors nicely.

Camp Randall started as a Civil War training camp for Union soldiers. It was named for Alexander Randall, the sixth governor of Wisconsin (1858-1861); he eventually served as Postmaster General of the United States under President Andrew Johnson. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were held here. Used briefly for agricultural purposes after, by 1894 the first track and field events were held on the site. Badger football began play there the following year, and wooden bleachers were built on what became “Randall Field.” Demands for more seats – and safer ones – led to the opening of Camp Randall Stadium on October 6, 1917. It featured a concrete and steel structure with 40 rows of bleacher seating, with the structure built into the hillside by Breese Terrace. That 1917 season opened with a 34-0 win over Beloit; their first homecoming game was a 10-7 win over Minnesota, one of many (read: most) years when Wisconsin got to keep Paul Bunyan’s Ax.

Seating was gradually added throughout the 1920s, including the replacement of some original wooden seats that burned in 1922. Today’s main seating on the east side of the stadium was added by 1924, when stadium capacity reached 33,000.

Charles Lindberg visited the stadium in 1927 after his historic Atlantic crossing flight, speaking to 40,000 people after flying his plane 200 feet over the stadium, circling the Capitol three times and buzzing over homes of friends nearby. Lindbergh had been a UW-Madison student but dropped out; he received an honorary degree from the University in 1928.

The Field House was added at the south end of Camp Randall in 1930, providing larger indoor facilities for basketball and a variety of other sports.

Two months before the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens competed in a track and field meet at Camp Randall as an Ohio State Buckeye. It drew the largest crowd ever for a track and field meet at the stadium. Owens won all four events in which he competed, but Wisconsin won the overall meet. Owens went on, of course, to win four gold medals and set three world records in Berlin.

North side stadium seats, including where the band and student sections are today, were added by 1951. While it brought stadium capacity to 55,000, it was still one of the smallest in the Big Ten.

Minnesota continued to be a rival for the Badgers in the 1950s; a 21-21 tie with Minnesota in 1952 sent the Badgers to their first-ever Rose Bowl (they lost). In 1954, a 27-0 win over Minnesota resulted in Wisconsin’s first Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche getting carried off the field at the end of his final game as a Badger. 1956 saw Sidney Williams, the first African-American starting quarterback in the modern Big Ten conference, lead the Badgers to a season-ending tie against the Gophers, who were ranked 7th in the nation at the time.

By 1958, the track and field section of Camp Randall had been eliminated in favor of more seats, and the stadium’s capacity rose to 63,710.

The 1960s saw two Big Ten titles for the Badgers and demand for more seats. The upper deck and press box on the west side was added by 1965 and capacity became 77,745 – just in time for the Badgers to end up having, shall we say, some rough seasons for most of the next two decades. UW Band Director Mike Leckrone started his position in 1969 and created a showmanship style for the band, including the “Fifth Quarter” after games, that became so popular they actually helped with attendance for a while (by the way Leckrone, now 80, is STILL the band director!) In 1981, the unranked Badgers upset then-#1 Michigan at Camp Randall 21-14, resulting in a crazy celebration city-wide afterwards; this was the first Badger game I attended and pretty much sealed my decision to go to school at UW! Check out the play that sealed it for Wisconsin here:

Barry Alvarez’ arrival at Wisconsin in 1990 marked a sea change in the team’s general fortunes and the Badgers have been powerhouses ever since. Rose Bowl wins in 1994, 1999, and 2000 were highlights as the team heads to major bowls pretty much every year. A 2005 renovation added the luxury boxes on the east side, enclosed the southeast corner with Kellner Hall and renovated the seats along the south end zone, bringing capacity to its current 80,000+. The video board and new sound system from those renovations allowed students to rock to “Jump Around” and other famous sing-a-longs like never before – some of which have caused trouble when TV broadcasts accidentally aired their content.

Plenty of concerts have graced Camp Randall too, starting with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1972. Other major concerts have included The Rolling Stones twice (1994 and 1997), Pink Floyd (1988 and 1994), Genesis (1992), and U2 (1992 and 1997).

Camp Randall Stadium continues to be one of the highest-rated stadiums in the country and they’re celebrating 100 Years just like Soerens! Check out for more history on the stadium, and of course for more history on Soerens Ford and their 100 years!

Camp Randall Address:
1440 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 262-1866

For more on these towns, attractions, road trips and more, check out, an ongoing exploration of Wisconsin’s highways around the state. They’re celebrating 100 years, just like Soerens Ford!

Wisconsin has some fascinating history. For 100 years, Soerens Ford has been a nice part of that history. We’ll be taking for historic and fun road trips in Ford cars and trucks all summer and into fall, check back here for more! Talk with you soon on 95.7 BIG FM!

-- Eric Paulsen

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