Part 1 — Madison poised to welcome DCI back in grand fashion

by Nic Waerzeggars, DCW staff

Publisher’s note: This article was originally published in the April 2006 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 35, Number 1). The second part is in the May issue, the third part will be in the June 2 edition and part four in the June 23 issue.

This August, when the 2006 DCI World Championships return to Madison, it will be to the venue that is the fourth oldest college football stadium in the United States, but thanks to a three-and-a-half-year, $110 million renovation project , Camp Randall stadium will have the look and feel of one of the country’s newest.

In addition to the impressive stage set for the corps proper, drum corps enthusiasts will also be treated to another breathtaking venue, Overture Center for the Arts, site of the individual and ensemble competitions on State Street, between the state capital and the university campus.

The Camp Randall project, unlike most major sporting venue renovations, was not motivated by capacity concerns. The home of the Wisconsin Badgers already boasted 76,000 seats, nearly 10,000 more than Gillette Stadium, the site of last year’s DCI World Championships, and was already capable of seating more than a third of Madison’s population.

Instead, the renovation focused on increasing the safety, accessibility, maneuverability and overall quality of experience for those visiting the stadium. To this philosophy, a major spiraling pedestrian ramp, nine elevators, three hundred restroom fixtures and 22 point-of-sale concession stands were added.

While audiences may take their unobstructed views for granted, performers will undoubtedly appreciate their lightness of step on Camp Randall’s newly-installed and impeccably maintained FieldTurf.

Ask any visitor about the project’s greatest success and they will likely tell you the most appreciated improvements are the intangible ones. While seats were added, increasing the stadium’s capacity beyond 80,000, they served more importantly to fill in the last of the stadium’s open spaces, completing the bowl effect and ensuring the loud and intimidating home field advantage performers and fans thrive on.

Though the most impressive attribute of the new Camp Randall Stadium will likely turn out to be its intimacy factor — concert, theater and drum corps enthusiasts often enjoy as much as the performance itself — on a 300,000 square foot scale of the performance “stage”.

The stadium will be ready to reveal its full persona when evening arrives and the new lighting, sound and scoreboard systems showcase the adrenalin-pumping spectacle of each individual’s championship performance.

Function and accessibility are also at the heart of world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli’s (Petronas Towers, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, and the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Japan) design for Overture Center for the Arts, Madison’s breathtaking site for this year’s individual and ensemble competition.

Pelli’s designs have called upon the importance of a building to be a responsible citizen; its purpose defined by location and use. Perhaps he had fourth generation Madisonian W. Jerome Frautschi’s citizenry in mind.

Frautschi’s $205 million gift, believed to be the single largest endowment given by an individual for an arts center in the United States, funded the entire Overture Center project.

Celebrity, cost and philanthropy aside, Overture Center for the Arts is already turning the 200 block of State Street into an arts district. The massive 400,000 square foot facility (100,000 square feet more spacious than Camp Randall) is home to nine resident organizations including Madison Ballet, Madison Opera, both Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art that opens in late April.

MMoCA will feature a Chuck Close exposition during DCI World Championship week, focusing on the art of printmaking while displaying 143 of his works.

Much of Overture Center for the Arts’ allure resides in the debate it frequently stirs among theater-goers, within the groups of individuals taking one of its guided drop-in tours (Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 2:00 PM and Saturday between 10:30 AM and 12:15 PM ($4 adult, $3 seniors and students), or between suddenly interested passers-by, as to which element of the structure is their favorite.

When the design itself is not mentioned, then frequently one of its two showcase theaters is. The signature theater, the 2,255 seat Overture Hall, features the world’s largest movable concert organ (more than 4,000 pipes) and attracts the biggest names, including guest philharmonic orchestras and touring Broadway musicals.

The most nostalgic, the 1,089 seat Capital Theater, originally a 1920s movie palace, has a tendency to hold you in your seat long after a performance has concluded, leaving you forgetful of the world outside.

If Camp Randall Stadium and Overture Center for the Arts are to be considered citizens, then their purpose will be greater than simply to provide the backdrops for the 2006 DCI World Championships.

It seems quite reasonable that each corps’ 11-minute program and each individual and ensemble performance will dissolve into each corps’, judge’s and spectator’s entire weeklong experience, allowing them to linger over the entire season a moment or two longer.

If you’re compelled to linger in Madison a day or two after the championships, or better yet, to arrive a day or two before they begin, look forward to future installments in DCW highlighting what to do and where to go while you’re here.