Those hawking sodas at Camp Randall won't be youths anymore

2013-08-30T11:15:00Z Those hawking sodas at Camp Randall won't be youths anymoreDAN SIMMONS | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6136

Shane Ryan hawked Cokes in the cheap seats of Camp Randall Stadium during Wisconsin Badgers football games last season, an exhausting but thrilling first job for the 12-year-old.

When the Badgers kick off their season on Saturday, there will be no Cokes — and no Ryan. The university’s new vendor, Learfield Levy Foodservice LLC, will sell exclusively soft drinks from the Dr Pepper Snapple Group and has stopped a decades-long practice of hiring local middle schoolers and high schoolers to sell them in the stands.

The change means a program that provided a first job for generations of Madison teens — and a way into football games that would otherwise be out of reach financially — is over.

“How sad is that?” asked Kelly Ryan, Shane’s mother. “I think the university does fairly well financially and can leave some things alone that have a commitment to the community.”

Mike Lipp, the athletic director at Madison West High School, has taught in the area for four decades and has seen many students enjoy the program.

“These guys are coming in not knowing the culture making a whole seismic shift,” Lipp said. “I hope it works for them.”

The W Club, a nonprofit group that ran concessions operations since 1962, sponsored the program that put the youths in the aisles.

It changed this year because the new vendor’s company policy requires all employees to be at least 18 years old, said a spokeswoman for Levy Restaurants of Chicago, one half of the Learfield Levy group.

“I do know that Levy’s policy is that they want adults running their operation,” said Justin Doherty, UW associate athletic director for external relations. “We weren’t intending for any consequence like this to happen but at the same time this is the company we chose and we’re happy with them.”

Since winning the bid in mid-July, expected to be worth up to $24 million over the next decade to the university, Levy has advertised the hawker jobs on craigslist and to UW-Madison students, among other places. It’s unknown how much interest they’ve received.

What is clear: The familiar scene of area youths walking up and down the aisles wearing yellow “VENDOR” bibs while carrying trays of soda, water and peanuts ,and screaming their sales pitches over the cacophonous stadium noise is no more.

“It’s something you take for granted,” said Rob Andringa, a UW-Madison Athletic Board member who hawked briefly as a boy and has attended games at Camp Randall since the early 1970s. “You always noticed them but just didn’t think much about them. They’ve been a constant.”

For youths in recent years, job requirements were simple:

Be at least 12 years old. Pick up a work permit from your school for $10. Wear the yellow top issued to you. Show up for at least six games a year. Arrive two hours early.

Hawk with a smile.

The pay was commission-based with tips — top earners brought home a bit more than $100 a game — and it came with the added bonus of watching games inside the bowl once the sellling was done in the fourth quarter.

Shane started last year a bit shy but quickly learned there were tips to be earned the louder he yelled and the crazier his hats.

A red-and-white punk rocker wig and a Badger hat with fuzzy ears were his go-tos. He greeted the fans in the nether reaches, many of them older season-ticket holders, and tried to make them feel like family.

One game last season, a woman way up in “the nosebleeds” heard his singsongy pitch and called out for a Diet Coke. Shane had only the real kind left and apologized. The woman held firm: diet or nothing.

The boy hoofed it down the steps, swapped a Coke for a Diet Coke in the concourse and trekked back up to the top of the stadium to give the woman her soda. She handed him a $20 bill.

“Keep the change,” she said. It added up to a $16.50 tip.

“It was crazy when she gave me the money,” said the eighth-grader at St. Maria Goretti. “Sometimes I’d be like, ‘Are you sure you want me to keep the change? This is a lot of money!’”

Tim O’Rourke started as a vendor in 1973 while a freshman at now-closed Holy Name Seminary.

“By the time I got to high school, (vending) just seemed like a cool thing to do,” said the 54-year-old.

He hawked for three years at a time when sneaking booze into the stadium was more widely practiced.

He sold the Cokes; fans mixed in the hard stuff. The most he ever made was $8 a game — tipping wasn’t allowed then — but he enjoyed the experience.

“I think it was a good job for a lot of kids,” he said. “I never minded it one bit.”

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(33) Comments

  1. wintermom9597
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    wintermom9597 - September 02, 2013 7:58 pm
    Shane - I hope you see this - we will miss you and your entertaining sales pitches in Section GG. You have a fantastic personality and we're positive you have a very bright future ahead of you. Life lessons like this one stink to learn, but know it will make you an even better person down the road.

    UW Athletic Department - shame on you. These are the kids who want to attend your school, who are starting college funds by hawking your over-priced food and beverages. For heaven's sake - does every last thing have to be about money with you?
  2. jeffnania
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    jeffnania - September 01, 2013 7:53 am

    I parked cars, sold tickets, hawked "Oscar Mayer Hot dogs'' and "Ice cold coke"
    The University and it's sports programs continue to try and distance themselves from and forget the community that built them. This is a great experience for kids. As a season ticket holder
    I am sorry to see this but not very surprised.
  3. somecleverscreenname
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    somecleverscreenname - August 30, 2013 4:03 pm
    Ah yes, an anonymous entity posting on a message board about who should look for a life.
  4. Maui Jim
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    Maui Jim - August 30, 2013 2:16 pm
    When are fans going to say "ENOUGH"? Say it in the only language Barry understands...$$$$$$$$$!!
  5. nufsenuf
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    nufsenuf - August 30, 2013 2:01 pm
    Isn't this really a non issue in the whole of reality? There is no good reason to watch a Badger football game live and even less reason to waste a day at Camp Randall. If you have to see a football game it can be watched on television where you see all the plays clearly. If you crave being part of the crowd, you should look for a life.
  6. twoputt
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    twoputt - August 30, 2013 1:10 pm
    Too bad Biliema didnt take Barrys fat azz with him.....
  7. Acapitalidea
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    Acapitalidea - August 30, 2013 12:12 pm
    I don't think it can be emphasized enough that Pat Richter had no say in appointing his successor.Or should I have said Annointing?
  8. Austin J
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    Austin J - August 30, 2013 10:59 am
    At just what point did UW athletics become ALL about Barry and his big, fat, flabby butt, and 0% about the students, the fans, and UW?
  9. ahpaschke
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    ahpaschke - August 30, 2013 10:52 am
    This is terrible. My brothers and I did vending at Camp Randall starting in 7th grade. One of the best things I've done. Yes, the trays were heavy, you got covered in sticky coke, chased by bees and drenched in sweat during the August games, frozen solid stuck with a row of only Diet Coke or scaled by hot chocolate during winter games, BUT I wouldn't trade it for anything! Experiencing Camp Randall every week at that age was amazing. I got to see Ron Dayne break the rushing record from the stands. It is what made me love the band and go to UW.
  10. microboy
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    microboy - August 30, 2013 10:37 am
    I hope you read this, buddy! You hawked soda in our section for the last 3 years. HH in the upper deck. My wife and I, as well as my brother and his wife, loved listening to your shouts. We're going to miss the "Ice cold waaaatttteerrr!" Sad to see you go, man. Good luck to you!
    Badger fans in HH
  11. ChukyChez1
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    ChukyChez1 - August 30, 2013 10:18 am
    Will the Packers ever follow this bad idea, & ban the players riding the kids bikes at Lambeau? Did the talking heads really consider the backlash from this move. Do you think people are going to switch their favorite drink to DP or Snapple? Will the not so sober fans be more hostel to an adult? Keep the kids, & add DP & Snapple to the menu. When I can't get Pepsi, I'll sub a Coke. I would never drink too sweet DP.
  12. hardwarehero
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    hardwarehero - August 30, 2013 10:04 am
    I did it also in the 1970 season, it was a lot of work and really was such a whirlwind of activity you were not even aware of the game going on. It was a great way to learn how hard work brought great rewards. Great fun and a great lesson for life.

    What a shame for Madison to lose this tradition.
  13. Unclewally
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    Unclewally - August 30, 2013 8:53 am
    Badger football is a revenue stream that needs to show continual growth or it is seen as unsuccessful. It is a shame that our cherished tradition of fall football in beautiful Madison has become a corporate profit center. It's hard to be loyal to a school that sees its students and alumni as customers.
  14. Davisra
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    Davisra - August 30, 2013 8:45 am
    Oh, but don't you all see that this change will "enhance the fan experience" and get everyone all excited to see the game in person rather than in front of our TVs?
  15. BluesBird
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    BluesBird - August 30, 2013 8:33 am
    So Big Barry turns over the concessions to his advertising agency LearField Sports. Wonderful.

    Another Badger tradition goes down the drain.

    At least we have the bronze statue of Barry to greet us at the gate. Yuck.
  16. ConservativeGal
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    ConservativeGal - August 30, 2013 8:10 am
    So we get to have grown men and women running through the stadium screaming out "Yoohoo here" and "Clamata here"? Paying $5 for a soda is almost tolerable when it's Coke, but $5 for a Dr Pepper? The revenue from the concessions will decrease eliminating all the "benefits" of this great decision. The W Club is out, the local kids are out. It'll be interesting to see the numbers at the end of the season.
  17. pikerover
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    pikerover - August 30, 2013 8:06 am
    Da Gov'na can add these jobs to his 250,000.
  18. Steve_R
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    Steve_R - August 30, 2013 7:58 am
    Thanks and all praise to Saint Barry for this moronic turn of events. The "Dr Pepper and Snapple Group"?????
  19. Peabody122
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    Peabody122 - August 30, 2013 7:51 am
    "Unintended consequences..." Are we really to believe they care for one second? I was one of those who complained every year about the crappy food choices...eliminating the W Club and now kid vendors. There's your unintended consequences...bring back those soggy cold wieners.
  20. bdholmes
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    bdholmes - August 30, 2013 5:52 am
    My cherry mcgillicuddy's and I will take our business elsewhere...
  21. MadCityYokal
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    MadCityYokal - August 30, 2013 1:26 am
    “I do know that Levy’s policy is that they want adults running their operation,” said Justin Doherty, UW associate athletic director for external relations. “We weren’t intending for any consequence like this to happen but at the same time this is the company we chose and we’re happy with them.” -- Another local connection to UW Athletics bites the dust and is buried so that more money can be made.
    I too sold peanuts and soda at Badger Football games as a kid. It was a fantastic experience and I felt connected to the UW, as a local Madison kid. It made me want to go here as an undergrad -- which I did.
    Now the Athletic Department is competing with the Badger Bash that has gone on at Union South (I worked that as well as a student) for over 20 plus years as well as breaking ties with the W Club.
    No, I won't be buying anything in the stadium during the Football game.
    Thanks, Barry . . . NOT!
  22. DaveJ
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    DaveJ - August 29, 2013 11:22 pm
    There's a solution. Boycott Camp Randall, & if you can't bear y to do that, don't buy the mix!
  23. RutledgeStBlues
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    RutledgeStBlues - August 29, 2013 10:57 pm
    My first job. Never will forget the Per-Mar security guard lining a bunch of us vendors up in an aisle to block the view of some obnoxious Michigan fans. Guess WSJ was right, the best years at Camp Randall are behind us.
  24. modotti
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    modotti - August 29, 2013 10:39 pm
    idiotic idea

    let's get rid of Barry
  25. madisonKP1
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    madisonKP1 - August 29, 2013 10:15 pm
    Sad to hear this. Worked there while in middle school in '97-00 and it definitely taught me the true value of a dollar. Making $40-50 a game back then was like striking gold, and having to walk up those stairs and shout as loud as possible was invaluable in shaping my work ethic. I'm all for maximizing profits, but I wont be contributing to their business now that they're taking away jobs from Madison's youth. Guess ill have to sneak in my own refreshments now.
  26. hcliff1
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    hcliff1 - August 29, 2013 10:02 pm
    I am boycotting big time..............keep up with this crap and hope you have a winning team because this badger experience is one big greedy yawn! Greed pure and simple
  27. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - August 29, 2013 8:04 pm
    Nuf - Uh, what?
    Anyway, it's sad to see another tradition dumped by the athletic dept.
    I'd boycott the vendors, but I never buy anything inside the stadium anyway.
  28. nufsenuf
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    nufsenuf - August 29, 2013 7:43 pm
    Alvarez, Wisconsin's anointed one. As a solution just ban the violent dangerous sport which essentially excludes the student body in favor of deep pocket wannabes with even bigger egos. If you can't ban it and money is so important then make it exclusive to television and radio, demolish the stadium and use the valuable land for class rooms or other educational activities. Return Madison to serious educational greatness, it's been a party town long enough.
  29. madcitydude
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    madcitydude - August 29, 2013 6:35 pm
    Why do they have to be 18? They're not selling beer. Don't buy the product. Boycott.
  30. Solstice
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    Solstice - August 29, 2013 6:30 pm
    There's more to the story-- how many non-profit groups are going to be running the concessions stands under this new contract? I've heard some have dropped out over the onerous restrictions of the Levy contract vs. the relationship they had with the W Club.
  31. madcitymac
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    madcitymac - August 29, 2013 5:35 pm
    Another tradition ruined by the greed of Barry Alvarez. Oh, but this will enhance the "game experience" for all fans. Yeah Barry, you know what you can do with your third-rate RC cola...
  32. dAnconia
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    dAnconia - August 29, 2013 5:09 pm
    Another sad consequence brought about by the pursuit of money. The little guys in our section were part of the allure of the game. Now gone. Us too someday. Maybe UW can put out a bid for corporately sponsored cheerleaders and then, well, why not? When Dr Leckrone retires we can put out a bid for a corporate band. Sell everything we can so we can get...more money.
  33. Native51
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    Native51 - August 29, 2013 5:06 pm
    I could see this coming with the vendor change. I was one of those kids in 1962-65 selling cokes -Cokear! A right of passage for near-westside Madison kids. Sticky, leaky coke trays, bees in the barrels, drunk fans with flasks & fingers full of bills, but what a fun job!
    The age of innocence in Madison is officially over.

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