Bascom Hill will be the backdrop for President Obama's campaign rally on the UW-Madison campus.
Planning to meet your study group at the UW Law School on Thursday? Hoping to go to office hours at Science Hall? Better make other plans, because much of the campus will be in lockdown by then in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit to Bascom Hill.
Obama is coming to Madison directly from Denver, where he will face Republican nominee Mitt Romney Wednesday night in their first debate. His stop on campus, confirmed Monday, has sent city and university officials scrambling to make the needed arrangements. The visit is likely to rack up significant security costs for the city and university.
Sgt. Aaron Chapin of the UW-Madison police views all the planning as worthwhile. "These types of events are historic," says Chapin. Despite "a lot of planning and preparation, [the officers involved] will remember it for the rest of their lives."
Event Details: Gates open at noon on Thursday, October 4. Attendees are being directed to line up along the sidewalk along Observatory Drive, west of Bascom Hill. Advanced registration online is required and people will need to go through a security checkpoint before admission. Only small bags and small cameras will be permitted. Food, water, computers, and signs are not allowed.
Security: The Secret Service is coordinating all the security for the president's visit, though other security forces in the city will contribute personnel and support. Joel DeSpain, the public information officer for the Madison Police Department, says it takes a lot of people to staff a presidential visit. When Obama visited in 2010, DeSpain says the security team included Dane County sheriffs and officers from the state Capitol, UW campus and city of Madison.
Cost: During the president's last visit the city of Madison spent just under $200,000 on police and firefighter support, says Katie Crawley, assistant to Mayor Paul Soglin. Most of the cost endured by the city covered street time, overtime and benefits for police officers. These funds won't be reimbursed says Crawley.
The cost of the university police won't be reimbursed either, says Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations. The university will be reimbursed for some expenses, however. UW will soon finalize a contract with the Obama campaign for the cost of hosting the event, including stage set-up and computer set-up for the press corps. The campaign paid roughly $11,000 for these services in 2010, says Sweeney. The university can bill the campaign for additional incurred expenses.
Closures: The buildings around Bascom Hill, where Obama will speak, will be closed all day Thursday. Students and staff will not be able to enter them for any reason. They include Science Hall, Education, North Hall, South Hall, Law School, and Music Hall. Bascom Hall will be open with limited access, and Library Mall will remain open as well. Several streets downtown and on campus will also be closed including parts of Observatory Drive, Langdon Street, Park Street and Charter Street around the Bascom Mall area.
City streets may be closed for the event, but police have not yet released that information. In anticipation of the crowds and closures, the Madison Streets Department will adjust its trash collection. Street Superintendent Chris Kelley will "double up crews early to finish by 11 a.m." Kelley says that in 2010 some streets were barricaded for the president and his entourage, but notes that security may opt to take different routes at the last minute.
Parking: City parking garages will be available for downtown visitors for $5, cash only. The State Street Campus garage will open at 9 a.m., and the Capitol and Overture Center garages open at 10 a.m. Many lots on the UW campus will be closed.
Buses: Madison Metro route 80 will be rerouted onto University Avenue during the event and other buses will run extra routes after the event to accommodate commuters from the rally.
Police, city and university officials say that people should expect delays no matter how they are traveling. Sweeney asks that people be "patient" and notes that even though the event will mean a lot of work for a lot of people, it is also a source of pride for students, employees and others, regardless of political affiliation.
"I think it's exciting citywide," says Crawley. "It puts a spotlight on Madison."