Skip to main content

New pier planned ahead of outdoor swimming season

April 19, 2024

Ahead of the upcoming outdoor swimming season, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will install a new swimming pier on Lake Mendota near Memorial Union to replace the structure that collapsed last fall. The new, $160,000 pier is anticipated to be installed in early June.

A final report examining the Sept. 4, 2023 swimming pier collapse attributed it to the activities of a number of pier users who were jumping on the pier and engaging in other disruptive behavior.

Ultimately, one of the pier legs buckled, dropping those who were on the pier into shallow water. Some minor injuries and property losses were reported.

There were an estimated 80 people on the swimming pier at the time of its collapse, which was not over its rated occupancy of 120. However, user activity created strains for which the pier was not designed.

The report documented that Wisconsin Union staff repeatedly asked pier users to stop the activity before the collapse due to potential safety concerns. Staff conveyed warnings up to 10 minutes before the leg buckled.

The report was created at the direction of Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Rob Cramer with the goal of understanding how the collapse took place and how to avoid a future safety issue. It included input from the Wisconsin Union, Recreation & Wellbeing, UWPD, Facilities Planning & Management and the Office of Legal Affairs.

The new pier will come with additional features and safety enhancements, including:

  • The ability to withstand greater latitudinal strain
  • A lockable entrance gate
  • A maximum capacity sign

Further, the university is assessing additional recommendations in the report, including ways to strengthen communications and other processes and procedures to ensure patron safety.

“We’re looking forward to a safe and fun lake swimming season in 2024,” says Mark Guthier, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Wisconsin Union director. “We’re glad the pier is an integral part of our student and community experience and need everyone’s help to make it as safe as possible for the future.”