Getting to Know Arena
You may not think of Arena, Wisconsin as a Madison suburb and you’re right. It’s not. But at just a short half-hour drive from the bustle of Middleton (just outside of Madison, the town and village that carry the name), may offer the best of both worlds. Arena is close enough to the capital city to offer plenty of big city amenities, while far enough away to provide that small-town rural feel.
Incorporated in 1923, Arena is still growing, but takes great care to maintain the quaintness that makes them what they are. Because Arena is proud of that hometown feel. In fact, this is the Village mission statement:
To protect and improve the health, safety, and welfare of the residents while enhancing the quality of life by preserving the small town character of the village.
Residents of both the village and town of Arena know that it’s OK not to be a suburb. Instead, they appreciate the scenic beauty of the land around surrounding this place they call home. As part of the Wisconsin River Valley, you’ll find water, hills and woods at every turn. Back in 1673, Marquette and Joliet were the first white men to discover this area along the banks of the Wisconsin River. But it wasn’t until 1836 that the name Arena (a Latin word meaning “an open sandy place”) first appeared on a map. And by 1847, several buildings (including a post office) took shape on the land platted by George Ashmore a few years earlier.
The river brought boats loaded with people and supplies ranging from lumber to food. By 1856, the railroad was also passing through the area and in 1860, Arena boasted several stores, hotels, a blacksmith, saloons, wagon shops, a drug store and the town’s fist physician along with a village schoolhouse, church and newspaper.
Several fires destroyed large parts of the Arena, but the townsfolk persevered, and it was rebuilt more than once. The Arena Cheese factory was established and in 1985, and Arena won its claim to fame as the birthplace of Cojack cheese.
Most resident here own their own homes. Arena gets good grades from Niche.com, which gave it a B+ for public schools and jobs, and a B for housing, cost of living, good for families, outdoor activities and nightlife. The median home value in the village of Arena come in a$154,400 and rent is an affordable $765. Home values in the town are slightly higher at a median of $247,596. The median household income is between 56,500 and 62,000.
Today there’s plenty to do in the area, many of them involving the Wisconsin River and area beaches. Tour the Arena Cheese Factory, attend a performance at American Players Theatre or take of tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Taliesin. Arena is just seven minutes from Spring Green. And of course, just over a half hour drive to the east will reveal all that Madison has to offer.
Between the village and the town, the area known as Arena has just over 2,200 residents — providing living proof that good things come in small packages.