Summer dreams: When will the Terrace open?

We’ve all been dreaming of the day when we can sit on the Memorial Union Terrace, sip a drink and watch the sunset. Although recent warm weather drew early visitors, the official reopening probably won’t be until April.

Shauna Breneman, communications director for Wisconsin Union, answers questions about when we can expect the Terrace to open and what new things the Wisconsin Union team will offer this year.

Q: When does the Terrace open?

A: The Memorial Union Terrace opens each spring when warm weather returns to Madison. Usually, this means opening in mid- to late April.

Q: When do the Terrace tables and chairs get moved out and who does this?

A: In May 2016, we invited graduating UW-Madison seniors to celebrate the reopening of the renovated Terrace by bringing the sunburst chairs back out. The Terrace had closed in September 2015 to undergo important renovations, such as updating sound and light equipment, adding ramps and repairing uneven pavement. We have not yet determined how we’ll bring out the chairs this year.

Q: When do performers start to take the stage at the Terrace?

A: Memorial Union Terrace music programming usually begins in May, but may begin as early as mid-April. We’re looking forward to announcing Terrace season programming on

Q: With the new renovations in Memorial Union will there be any changes to the Terrace?

A: The Wisconsin Union team reopened the renovated Memorial Union Terrace in May 2016. Investments in this iconic space included creating a larger stage and making the Terrace more accessible for all guests. This year, we will fully open the new east Terrace concession stand. Just steps away from the Terrace are multiple new and recently reopened dining options, including der Rathskeller, Strada, Carte, Daily Scoop, der Stiftskeller, Badger Market and Peet’s Coffee & Tea. We expect the east wing and central core portions of floors two through four of Memorial Union to reopen in fall 2017. We look forward to celebrating this milestone in the Union’s history with the community. This will mark the completion of the first comprehensive renovation of Memorial Union since the building opened in 1928. We could not be more grateful for students’ input and support throughout this project.


Photo: Union Theater

What makes the Terrace such an instantly recognizable icon? The chairs! The first stamped, springy “sunburst” chair design, known as the Deauville, was retired due to the design causing the chairs to rust quickly. The sunburst design, however, endured with a flat sunburst design that has stood the test of time. The colors of the chairs are John Deere green, Allis Chalmers orange and sunshine yellow, which pay tribute to Wisconsin’s farming tradition. These colors are also the primary colors of spring, summer and fall, the seasons that visitors most often spend their time on the Terrace.


Construction on the original Memorial Union Terrace began in the summer and fall of 1928. The Terrace was originally envisioned to serve as an “undergraduate playground.” This is a scene in the terrace’s early years.

– Sara Griswold