September, 2014: The new artificial turf being installed.
Breese Stevens Field has been full of activity this fall -- however, it's been playing host to backhoes and dump trucks rather than soccer and Ultimate matches. Breese Stevens, Madison's first lighted stadium, is undergoing one of the most extensive renovations in its 89-year history.
The first grandstand was built there in 1925. For years, it was the site of nearly all Madison high school football games as well as collegiate and minor league baseball and a wild assortment of other events like circuses, midget car racing, concerts and boxing matches. By the end of the 20th century, Breese Stevens had become primarily a soccer facility, serving as home to the University of Wisconsin and Edgewood College teams and the WIAA State Soccer Tournament.
But in 1993, the Badgers moved their games to the new McClimon Complex on campus, and the facility began to suffer from a lack of needed repairs and upgrades. Ten years later, the WIAA pulled the state championship from Madison in favor of the more modern Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
The loss of the WIAA State Tournament is one motivating factor for the recent improvements. The city has made no secret of the fact that it would like the event back, and upgrades to the concrete structure (2007), officials' locker rooms (2009) and a new press box (2011) have all been made with an eye toward regaining the WIAA's favor.
This fall, the attention has gone to the much-maligned and overused playing surface. The project is to tear out the grass, remove the field's very steep crown and replace it with an artificial surface that can support more games and more sports.
The Parks Department hopes the new artificial turf will make the stadium appeal to semipro football (both men's and women's), high school football, rugby, lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee and concerts. When it's finished, Breese Stevens should regain its place among Madison's iconic sports venues.