The countdown is on: Five things you might not know about those iconic ‘terrace chairs’

Sunburst chairs return Thursday to the Union
The countdown is on: Five things you might not know about those iconic ‘terrace chairs’
Maija Inveiss

The UW-Madison campus is about to get a whole lot greener… and more orange and yellow, too! It’s terrace time, and the iconic sunburst chairs will make their long-awaited return at 4 p.m. April 18 to the Memorial Union.

The chairs are part of a 90-year-old campus tradition.

Here are some things you might not know about them:

1. The chairs aren’t Badger red for several reasons.

The sunburst chairs are made in three, very specific colors: John Deere green and yellow, and Allis Chalmers orange. They’re meant to pay tribute to Wisconsin’s farming tradition. The colors also represent primary colors of spring, summer and fall, which are the seasons students most associate with the Terrace.

2. The university has more than 1,000 sunburst chairs, and you won’t find these ones anywhere else.

In 1988, the green, orange, and yellow colors were officially trademarked for use only by the Wisconsin Union. They’ve kept the same design since 1981, with the exception of 2012, when a special batch of chairs were made in “Mendota Blue” to raise awareness and donations for the Union’s renovation project.

3. The chairs are stored in an undisclosed, off-site warehouse during the off-season.

The UW-Madison takes its tradition seriously, and makes sure its iconic chairs are kept safe and away from the elements between November and April of each year.

4. Anywhere from 60 to 250 chairs are stolen during any given “Terrace season,” according to University Police.

In 2014, the UW reported a record-high 250 chairs missing from its Terrace. University officials call this type of theft a growing problem since they expanded the Terrace’s footprint, adding 300 more chairs. Fines for stolen chairs can be upward of $500.

5. You can buy your own terrace chair…

However, the ones for sale aren’t exactly the same. The Wisconsin Union sells red and white sunburst chairs for $350 on its website. The Union will deliver your chair for an additional $75.

The countdown is on: Five things you might not know about those iconic ‘terrace chairs’

If you’re interested in becoming a part of the annual terrace chair tradition, you can line up at the North Park Street entrance of the Memorial Union at 3 p.m. Thursday. There, you’ll pick up a chair or two to take on the Terrace.

The first 200 people in line will get new Terrace-themed swag. The Union team will also be giving out bags to random chair-carriers.

The return of Terrace season means more than just brats, beer, and some pretty spectacular views; the 90-year-old tradition has evolved to include an “After Dark” music and movie series, yoga classes, and paddling rentals, too.

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