The Kohl Center, opened in 1998, is the home for the UW men's, and women's basketball teams, and the men's hockey teams. Since opening, the building has held up as one of the finest on-campus facilities in all of collegiate athletics. Areas specific to the UW programs were designed by the Wisconsin coaches with the programs in mind. From computers to lounge areas to audio/video systems, the Kohl Center provides everything under one roof. In addition to the competitive floor, the Kohl Center houses state-of-the-art practice facilities, the Fetzer Academic Center, athletic training and rehabilitation facilities, strength and conditioning training areas, newly remodeled locker rooms and coaching staff offices.
The building is named for U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), a 1956 graduate of the UW-Madison, who donated $25 million to the project. Kohl's gift is the single largest private donation in University history. Kohl earned his Bachelor of Science degree in American Institutions from Wisconsin-Madison. Former all-Big Ten basketball player Albert "Ab" Nicholas and his wife, Nancy Johnson Nicholas, pledged $10 million toward the project. The facility's practice gymnasium is named the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion and Plaza. Nicholas received his B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from the UW-Madison. The Kellner family, Jack F. and his sons, Ted and Jack W. of Milwaukee gave $2.5 million. All three Kellners received degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Kohl Center seats 17,287 for men's basketball, which includes courtside seating, and 17,142 for women's basketball. These figures include approximately 7,500 seats in the lower seating bowl and 4,500 in each of the two balconies. The unique design of the Kohl Center (with two overhanging balconies) guarantees that all fans will be close to the playing floor with excellent sight lines. The facility seats 15,237 for hockey, and between 15,000 and 17,000 for concerts.
Owning one of the largest buildings in the conference, the Badgers have been fortunate to have a fan base that fills the Kohl Center on a regular basis. Heading into the 2017-18 season, the men's basketball team has led the Big Ten in attendance in 11 of the last 15 years and finished among the top seven nationally for 17 straight seasons. The basketball team had a streak of 143 consecutive sellouts (2003-11) snapped in 2011 and enters the 2017-18 season with 57 straight sellouts.
For hockey, the Kohl Center is the second largest on-campus rink in the nation (15,359). The only on-campus facility with a larger capacity is Value City Arena (17,500) in Columbus, Ohio. The building is the third-largest rink played in regularly by college hockey schools, behind Value City Arena and CenturyLink Center Omaha (16,680). Since moving to the Kohl Center, the Badgers have led the nation in attendance in 14 of the 15 seasons and never finished lower than third.
2012 LaBahn Arena and Kohl Center Remodel Project
LaBahn Arena and a Kohl Center remodeling project were completed in the fall of 2012, keeping the Badgers' facilities among the best in the country. Named in honor of lead donors Charles (Wisconsin '49) and Mary Ann LaBahn, LaBahn Arena opened on Oct. 19, 2012 and sits adjacent to the Kohl Center, connected via an underground hallway. This $27.9 million project includes a competition rink for UW women's hockey as well as new locker rooms for both men's and women's hockey.
As part of that project, the Kohl Center also received newly remodeled and expanded locker rooms for the men's and women's basketball teams. All four locker rooms also include lounges with ping pong, big-screen televisions and eating areas as well as a team video room with stadium-style seating. The updates also included an increased sports medicine facility Hydroworx rehabilitation pool and recovery tubs as well as a student-athlete dining area.
In 2017, the Kohl Center added a new, state-of-the-art center-hung videoboard. The new LED video display is almost 35 feet wide by 22 feet tall, weighing nearly 38,000 pounds.
Spacious Locker Rooms
The Kohl Center includes locker rooms for UW men's and women's basketball. Four other locker rooms (for visitors or multiple teams during WIAA tournaments) also are in the arena. The 2,200 square-foot, state-of-the-art locker areas have been designed with the needs of student-athletes in mind including team organizational meetings, an athlete's social area and study carrels.
The Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion is a world-class facility that houses three full-size basketball courts to be used for practice sessions when the Kohl Center is booked for other events. Pre-game booster club functions are also scheduled in the practice gym.
Other Kohl Center Events
In addition to Badgers athletics, the Kohl Center hosts numerous other events throughout the year including commencement ceremonies for the UW and Madison high schools, concerts, ice skating shows, career fairs, political gatherings and conventions.
The Kohl Center has served as the site for Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) high school championships as well as the 1998 NCAA women's volleyball national championship, the 2002 NCAA men's basketball regional championship, 2008 NCAA men's hockey regional championship and 2009 NCAA women's hockey quarterfinals.
The Kohl Center also hosts the annual Varsity Band Spring Concert, an event that began in March 1975 and has grown into a three-night affair with professional staging, lighting, sound and pyrotechnics. The concert averages 25,000 attendees every year. On February 12, 2008, democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke before a crowd of over 17,000 prior to the Wisconsin primary and the Dalai Lama spoke in front of a capacity Kohl Center crowd in 2007.
Among the more than 70 concerts held at the Kohl Center since opening in 1998 have been performances by Billy Joel and Elton John, Dave Matthews Band, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Shania Twain, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and many others.
Check List of Team and Fan Amenities
- For the Athletes: Huge lockerooms that include attached lounges, video/meeting rooms, and study areas with practice facility attached.
- For the Coaches: Spacious offices with westward views of the campus including the Field House and Camp Randall Stadium.
- For the Support Areas: Sports medicine, sports information, concessions/catering, and physical plant have ample and convenient work areas. The UW ticket office operates from its offices in the Kohl Center.
- For the Fans and Suites: A state-of-the-art sound system has been implemented in the Kohl Center and TV monitors (capable of showing replays) are wired to the suites and above concessions stands throughout the building.
- For the Fans: Extra-wide concourses (two), a number of food courts on both levels, numerous restrooms and merchandise outlets.
- Also For the Fans: The cantilever design replicates the overhang effect of the former UW Field House without the obstructions. Sightlines are tremendous from every seat. At center court, you can look up at three ascending, cheering spectator areas, an awesome and intimidating sight for opponents.