When a major upgrade was made to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Marching Band’s practice field, one aspect stood out, and not in a good way.
The band director’s tower looked shabby, unsafe and out of place.
In October 2009, improvements to the Walnut Street practice field on the southwest shore of Lake Mendota were completed. An 80-yard artificial turf surface was installed, along with an advanced drainage system and other improvements. The $800,000 project was made possible through private contributions and assistance from Athletic Director Barry Alvarez.
But the original plans did not call for an improvement to the band director’s tower, the two-story structure from which Mike Leckrone conducts the outdoor rehearsals.
Many comments focused on the tower’s poor appearance and condition, especially in contrast to the beautiful look of the new field. In April 2010, a longtime donor to the band made a gift to the UW Foundation to “get the ball rolling” on replacing the old tower with a structure that was not only safe, secure and functional but also visually appealing.
In May, Leckrone met with staff from the Office of Facilities Planning and Management to discuss what would be needed to create an attractive new tower that would have added storage and be easier to use. At the same time, the UW Foundation began contacting a small group of band donors and friends to let them know about fundraising for the project and see whether they wanted to be a part of it. Not a single person said no.
By mid-August, most of the work was done, and a handsome new tower greeted new freshmen and returning UW-Madison students trying out for the 2010 Marching Band. On December 2, the last components of the project – striking Band Bucky oval “medallions” – were mounted on the east and west walls of the tower. Thanks to the generous support of the best fans in the land, the Wisconsin Band now boasts a complete practice facility that is unsurpassed anywhere in the country.