Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Protesters oppose guns at ESPN Games

Police have decided that holding the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in early July is safe.

The event has the potential to bring millions of dollars to the local economy this summer, but debate has risen about whether the events are safe for the surrounding community.

The event will be held July 8-11 at Quann Park, which borders the Alliant Energy Center, and is expected to draw around 200 Olympic-level athletes and more than 60,000 spectators.


It is not the fishing, sporting dogs or timber events sparking controversy. Instead, the concerns regard the target sports, which include archery, rifle and shotgun competitions.

Many University of Wisconsin students, as well as citizens of Madison, are concerned that target sports, especially those involving guns, could endanger the surrounding community.

UW freshman Rebecca Bierman is concerned about the event.

“I think it is incredibly dangerous, because you never know when a bullet could go astray, endangering neighbors or spectators in and around the park,” Bierman said.

But Ted Ballweg, the director of sales and marketing at the Alliant Energy Center, said there is absolutely no issue with safety.

“There are four football fields between here and the nearest residence,” Ballweg said. “You couldn’t physically shoot a gun as far as the nearest residence.”

He said all the events were approved by the National Shooting Sports Association and there are no high-powered rifles being used.

UW student Lisa Shimotake is a member of Against Guns, a student organization promoting gun safety.

Like Bierman, she finds the target sports unnerving. She was not so much concerned about the safety of the spectators as she was about the image of guns it gives to the public.

“Personally, I don’t like the impression it puts on the general population,” Shimotake said. “It makes guns look less threatening.”

She also feels using guns for sport is unsettling.

“The fact that people need to improve in the need to shoot things seems scary,” Shimotake said.

Ballweg said he has tried bringing this event to Madison for three years and has “a hard time understanding why this has become a gun issue.”

He said when the Alliant Energy Center was determining whether or not to host the event, they invited all 650 surrounding neighbors to a meeting to discuss the issue and only 12 showed up.

The small group of people were there to protest, but were not opposed to the sport.

This prompted Ballweg to personally call seven neighbors whose property adjoined the Alliant Energy Center. He said all of them expressed excitement about the games coming to town.

Ballweg said a small group’s dislike for guns does not mean the event should not be hosted in Madison.

“I’m not going to not have a band like Metallica just because I don’t like their music,” Ballweg said.

The ESPN Great Outdoor Games began five years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y. Last year Ballweg attended the event in Reno, Nev. with members of the Department of Tourism and the Visitors Bureau, all of whom decided it would be an appropriate event for Madison.

He said many of the participating athletes are from the Midwest and it is a good central location.

“It is one of the largest events to ever come to Madison. It’s of Olympic proportion,” Ballweg said. “And it’s free.”

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