Wisconsin Athletics Taps SAS To Optimize Venue Seating And Attendance For Commencement


As the world returns to more in-person events, venue optimization software can help stadiums, arenas and other venues optimize attendance and create a safer fan experience. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Athletics used SAS® for venue optimization to determine socially distanced seating layouts for commencement ceremonies at Camp Randall Stadium, home of Wisconsin Badgers football. Analytics leader SAS has consulted with athletic organizations around the world on how best to plan seating at stadiums and other venues amid COVID-19 restrictions.

“An in-person commencement was an important milestone for our university. Creating a memorable experience while supporting the safety of our graduates, faculty and operations staff required significant flexibility and planning,” said Daron Jones, Wisconsin Athletics Director of External Engagement. “SAS was the right partner to work with on this venue seating optimization effort. They collaborated with us step-by-step while tailoring a comprehensive seating optimization plan specific to all of the unique aspects of Camp Randall Stadium, and completed the project in a short amount of time.”

SAS for venue optimization uses models and data visualization to provide an ideal seating layout based on a set of ticketing and social distancing parameters and objectives entered by the user. Wisconsin’s two ceremonies, one for undergraduates and another for graduate degree candidates, were limited to participants only. However, even a venue as large as Camp Randall Stadium was challenged to accommodate graduates when allowing for six feet of social distancing.

Helping graduating friends sit together

Attendees were seated in the lower bowl and throughout field level sections of the stadium. Potential ceremony participants were sent seating request surveys to accommodate, as best as possible, groups who want to sit together. The SAS venue optimization models included factors such as:

  • Results of the seating request survey, with a minimum of one and maximum of four graduates in each “pod.”
  • Six feet of distance between pods.
  • Blocking of four aisle seats in each section, which allows people to more safely maneuver up and down the aisles and sections.
  • Socially distanced seating for faculty escorts.

SAS worked with the university’s athletics department to quickly perform the analysis using SAS Results, a flexible model where SAS analytics experts tackle a specific, limited business challenge. Data visualization showed the Wisconsin athletic department what the stadium seating arrangements would look like on graduation day. The athletic department was able to easily upload the venue optimization results into its ticketing system, Paciolan, for fulfillment.