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Football weekend house rentals eyed for Madison

Company says goal is to make 25 homes available near Camp Randall

MADISON, Wis. - Just a few blocks away from Camp Randall, Michael Varda has come to terms with the hype and traffic that comes with game day.

"Thank goodness it's only about seven times a year," Varda said.

When Varda heard that his section of Hoyt Street could be prime real estate for a new business coming to town, he was skeptical about the proposal.

"There's a balancing act to keep neighborhoods vital and this seems like, 'oh no, let's put another commercial burden in the area,'" Varda said.

Chicago-based University Football Rentals wants to come to Madison to offer house rentals for Badger football weekends.

The company is already operating in towns with strong college football teams. Homeowners within ten miles of the stadium have the chance to rent out their houses from 5 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday.

Co-founder Mike Doyle estimated it would cost $1,400 a weekend for people to rent in the UW-Madison area. Doyle said most renters are family groups of eight to ten people.


"The biggest problem that we're trying to solve is the lodging infrastructure shortage that exists in a lot of these college towns," Doyle explained.

Doyle said the company only started targeting Madison homeowners in the last four to six weeks, and have about five homeowners interested in participating so far. The goal, Doyle said, is to have about 25 homes in a new town.

Mark Clear is one of seven Madison alders to propose an ordinance requiring licensing and permits for these homeowners.

"I don't necessarily have a problem with adding some extra capacity as long as it's done legitimately," Clear said.

Essentially, Clear said the ordinance would make it so people renting out their house for football weekends would be treated much like a bed and breakfast is under state and city laws.

The homeowner would have to acquire a license from the Department of Health, and the house would be inspected before visitors occupied the residence. In addition, the homeowner would have to apply for a conditional use permit through the city. Those fees would total about $1,200 for just the first year and more for renewals.

Clear said any profits from the rentals would also be subjected to a 9% room tax.

"We want to try and find ways that that can be done and done legally," Clear said, "but also make sure that it's not going to have negative impacts on a neighborhood."

Doyle said his company has experienced similar responses in other municipalities.

"I wouldn't say we're concerned," Doyle said. "As I said, we want to work with the city and make sure that we're doing this the right way and everybody can do this legally. I really think it's going to be a great economic benefit to some of the folks who live up in Madison."

Varda still doubts the business model and worries about the impact on his neighborhood and other accommodations in the city that might not need more competition.

"It's enough, what we have now," Varda explained. "We tolerate it because you move next to the stadium. You know you're going to have people coming for that."

The Madison City Council has a listening session on the ordinance set for September 5.

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