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Stadium expansion next on the docket for Notre Dame

May 4, 2013, 7:55 AM EDT

Updated Notre Dame Stadium

The house that Rockne built is in need of another expansion. At least that’s the thinking among Notre Dame administrators. The university announced a feasibility study that’s going to explore all options for the iconic stadium over the next six to nine months, as part of the a larger campus plan.

“Inspired by the University’s campus master plan, we will study the possibility of accomplishing multiple objectives — namely, preserve the campus’ pedestrian character by taking advantage of a central location for needed facilities, retain the integrity of a legendary stadium, improve the visual attractiveness of the exterior stadium wall, and enhance the game day experience for our football fans,” university president Rev. John Jenkins said in an official release.

Those objectives include transitioning the stadium from simple football stadium to a nerve center that incorporates more into daily university life. In an interview with the South Bend Tribune, athletic director Jack Swarbrick gave a few more details into the master plan.

“For me, this is such a quintessential Notre Dame story,” Swarbrick told the Tribune, “in which athletics has some issues it wants to address, the university has important issues on its agenda and there’s a natural integration of that discussion and engagement of people across the university that doesn’t produce an athletic solution, but produces a university solution. And that really excites me.

“We talk a lot about our model being different. I think this concept is the embodiment of that difference, that we’ll take our most iconic athletic venue and re-imagine it as the site of year-round university use, not five-day a year athletic use.”

One thing that seems most likely: an expansion to the attendance capacity, with the inclusion of much needed premium seating. That will be accomplished with a matching bank of indoor seating, opposite the current press box.

One hot topic that hasn’t been discussed is the adding of a video board. In the concept art the university released (here’s a link to a larger image), no video board is visible. That said, the obvious place for it is above the south end zone, an angle we don’t see.

The study will take place over the next six to nine months and is still in the defining stages. The university hopes to incorporate the following additions:

  • Space for classrooms, conferences, speakers, meetings, receptions and other events.
  • A student center for assembly and activity areas.
  • Resources for media, including facilities for the University’s expanding video and digital initiatives for academic purposes and external relations, as well as a press box.
  • A location for various hospitality functions for community and campus patrons.
  • Enhancements to the fan experience, including premium seating options.



  1. bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    It’s an interesting design that looks really good. Here are a few comments:

    1. Notice that the north end video boards are embedded into the top rows of the stands instead of atop the stadium wall like the current scoreboard. This probably takes out a couple hundred seats but this anchoring also allows them to be larger than currently shown. Many stadiums (e.g., Oklahoma) have a small video board on one end and a jumbotron on the other. We don’t have a view of the south end from the inside, probably for a reason.

    2. To keep the current bowl, the premium seating won’t be very premium. As with the current club level above the press area, I find it too high/distant and isolated from the game. The windows are sealed closed and you don’t hear anything. The club is a great place to get food and walk around and talk with people, but I far prefer watching the game itself from the stands where you can yell and experience the atmosphere.

    3. All of the structures outside the current wall will further constrict the walking space and make for more congestion for the hours before kickoff. This is true on the west side that most people use to get between the tailgating areas and central campus (the Dome). Joining it with the JACC on the east side will cause a lot more congestion.

    4. I still find it amazing that the Stadium is now considered central campus. When I went to school, it was off the south-east corner, well away from everything. How things change.

    • stedward - May 4, 2013 at 7:20 PM

      It’s not considered central campus. Maybe more people are off campus and are parking in the stadium lot every day and it boarders lots of classroom buildings, but it is by no means central.

      • bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 7:59 PM

        I know where it is relative to existing facilities, but they must be referring to further expansion. Here is but one statement from the press release on that refers to it as central:

        “The University of Notre Dame announced today (May 2) that it is exploring an innovative approach to campus planning that would take advantage of the central location of the football stadium to make it a hub for, among other possibilities, a student center, media center and classroom and conference center.”

  2. chicagoirish23 - May 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    I love the idea of expanding and upgrading but let’s make it 100K seats. 4K premium seats make it easier for the uber rich to get tickets but the last I checked they didn’t have problems in the first place. Either way I like how Jack handles his business.

    • bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 9:07 AM

      You really can’t materially expand the capacity without a new design and a new stadium. Even the +20K in the 1997 expansion are really crappy seats. Larger stadiums have steeper upward slopes – often with embedded luxury suites – while the angles of Notre Dame stadium create a more open bowl.

  3. mediocrebob - May 4, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    I don’t think the 20k added from last expansion are bad seats at all. In fact, that’s one of the great things about a bowl. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone complain about crappy seats at Notre Dame. Are there seats better than others? Yes. I don’t think it makes the other seats bad. If you ever get those “bad” seats again, let me know. I’ll take em.

    As for expansion, if you look at the rendering, there is a clear line that continues along the top of the stadium. To me, this looks like added on seating. Maybe another 10k? Who knows? But I’m not sure I’m liking this plan if they aren’t adding another 8-10k.

    Press box on the other side should help keep in some of the noise hopefully.

    • bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      I was up there once over a decade ago and they are far up and out – much worse than what I had my freshman year. If you look at the photo rendering in this article, you easily see how much further/higher the new outer (darker) section is.

      My point is that many stadiums with larger capacity implement this by going vertical with separate decks, which are often separated by at least two levels of luxury suits. Texas stadium, for example:

      An exception to this is Michigan’s Big House. It is a traditional shallow-slope bowl that is just big. I wouldn’t want to be in the nosebleed sections there either.

      I would also note that Notre Dame is a fraction of the size (student body count) of the big public universities with huge stadiums (>100k). Notre Dame has 8k undergrads while schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Texas have 50k+. While many think that bigger is better, it’s the students that make most of the noise and adding more seats tends to dilute it rather than add to it. I also like the fact that Notre Dame stadium is always sold out and full.

      • nudeman - May 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        I don’t know why a 2nd deck hasn’t been considered in the past. Now it’s probably too late.

        Would have been a better idea for the first renovation than adding the nosebleed seats. I’d bet they felt it would have too radically altered the original look and feel. Bad reason not to have done it in my opinion.

        At some point, expansion becomes counterproductive if they can’t sell all the seats, and I think they’re right on the edge of that now, aren’t they bern?

        Only thing that makes sense in the way of expansion at this point is luxury boxes. 4-5,000 of those for huge bucks would be a nice little revenue enhancer.

      • bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        A second deck would entail radical redesign and significant demolition – something avoided by the 97 expansion. The luxury suites at UT stadium are pretty nice because they are under the second deck. However, in the ND design here, they are above all seats in the stadium. I sometimes go to the club level now to meet with people and grab food, but greatly prefer watching from down close to the field and in the crowd.

  4. mediocrebob - May 4, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I understand. But to say their bad seats is a little off. I’ve been to stadiums (Ohio stadium , Bryant-Denny , Michigan stadium to name a few) where there truly are VERY bad seats. Never been in a bad seat at ND. Been all over the stadium.

    As for selling out. This will never be an issue even with 90k. And one of my biggest issues with our fan base is that the stadium is so quiet. Rely on student section. Remember late 80s early 90s? It could be intimidating again. 90k is an ideal number I think.

  5. mediocrebob - May 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    On the edge of not selling out?

  6. oldschoollyons - May 4, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Aesthetically, it could have been worse. The plan does make the additions consistent with the architecture of the existing stadium and the rest of the campus — although the protruding increased heights disrupt the present graceful sight lines, and the additions themselves clutter what has been a simple, classic oval bowl.

    Conceptually, however, it is a mistake. The proposed additions go to the heart of how Notre Dame sees itself as a university. Putting classrooms, administrative offices, conference rooms and a whole academic department into the athletic coliseum and attempting to make the expanded stadium a locus of campus life further distorts the relationship between scholarship and learning on the one hand and sports on the other. Notre Dame should at least try to be a university with a football team rather than a school centered on a game.

    The proposed additions send the wrong message about what Notre Dame is — or at least aspires to be. Football should be one part of university life and an adjunct to the school’s academic purpose. Drawing student life further into the sports arena is not — or at least should not be — where Notre Dame wants to go.

    • mtflsmitty - May 4, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      You guys are a tough crowd. I think the rendering looks great, and creates a new facade dressing up the rather bland outside walls that exist now. I’m not an alum. But count many dozens of you as some very close friends. I can’t imagine many alums over 40 who would ever think adding upper decks would be a good thing.

      Death Valley (LSU) may be a tough place to play six days a year. But those poor people need to live with that God-aweful disgrace all year round. Of course, those coonasses have no class much less taste, so it suits them fine.

      The extra inside seating creates new revenue streams. God knows the university is probably flirting dangerously close to trust values less than $1B. Would be terrible to see them fall into 9-figures.

      Other than closing the access between the stadium and the Joyce, I thought it looked great.

      Go Irish

      (Grrrrrr……hungry for some real football news)

      • bernhtp - May 5, 2013 at 7:59 AM

        The university endowment is around $6.5B and growing.

        The one good thing about the luxury boxes depicted is that they are open. I hate the closed nature of the existing club level in the press box. The drawing also shows a new section of gold seats – seats, not benches – above the existing sections.

      • mtflsmitty - May 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        Crazy money sitting in the accounts of top funded universities in the country:

        These rankings show a clear anti-catholic bias led by The Swami and the the rest in Bristol.

  7. glowplugv - May 4, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    My comment is simple: first add a Jumbotron and a synthetic surface then add the luxury boxes. Let’s not get into another “tradition” discussion. Both are long overdue, and with the teams we are and will be fielding under Coach Kelly, the stadium should match their on-field excellence. Luxury boxes work for the bottomline but don’t do anything for the rest of the 80K who are in the stands. ND’s team deserves the best conditions that can be provided for them, and probably today that is a synthetic surface.

    • bernhtp - May 4, 2013 at 8:17 PM

      The existing stadium is one of the icons in all of sports. It provides a unique atmosphere and better experience than found in larger facilities with jumbotrons, field turf, luxury boxes, and hookers.

      This is not to say it cannot be improved. I think this plan here does that. It also doesn’t mean that video boards and field turf shouldn’t be considered, but don’t make it seem like it’s necessary to keep Notre Dame on par with everyone else, because frankly, we have no peer as it is.

  8. papadec - May 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    I don’t think there would be a problem filling the stadium with these additional seats, or more, for that matter. Yes, ND has a smaller student enrollment than many other Div 1 opponents, but there will always be a huge demand from Alumni & Subway Alumni. In one of the other articles I read – either @ espn, or Irish Sports Daily, there was a mention of the ND Administration already seeking input from key financial supporters. I guess that means the people who would use the suites. Overall, I like it.

  9. norcalirish - May 5, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    That shamrock in the middle of the field is stupid.

    Fine with most of it, but keep the grass.

    Why has nobody mentioned a wraparound video board? Is that even possible? Have it go from press box to press box. Bonus points if one side is clear video plastic and you can still see TJ.

    And the Stadium is nowhere NEAR central campus… unless things have drastically chased in the few years since I’ve been to campus.

  10. yaketyyacc - May 5, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    imagine in 1930, discussing adding seats to Cartier Field. Thank God for Rockne, who proposed that a “new” stadium be built. The good padres being conservative and frugal, borrowed Michigan’s stadium plans and then cut it by 40,000 seats. was that a BIG mistake! the mistake was further compounded by adding the present 20,000 seats. and now, surrounded, whether or not it is central, by constricting buildings, more money is to be wasted.
    When the 20,000 seats were added, it was time then, for a “new” stadium. Certainly, for sure, for sure, it is the moment that Notre Dame must realize that its potential has yet to be reached. Yes, I loved sitting in the ND stadium, but the time has come for a brand new, state of the arts, with roof mobility, and shops, restaurants, etc., stadium.
    Oh, I can see the good padres cringing at the thought of the cost, just as they did when Rock proposed spending the enormous amount of 600,000 dollars to build the 1930 stadium. Well, who proved to be right. Remember our fight song: what though the odds be great or small, old Notre Dame will BUILD over all.

    • bernhtp - May 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

      It’s hard to find fault with the decisions made at the time given the results. It was a very bold move for a small Catholic university to build a 60K seat stadium in the middle of nowhere back then. Talk about a field of dreams.

      Notre Dame will tear down the stadium for a new one about the same time they demolish the administration build with the golden dome and Mary. It isn’t happening. It would not only be a logistical and financial nightmare – at least one lost season – but would lose some connection with its glorious past. But the most important thing is, it is completely unnecessary.

      I was the first to say I couldn’t get my head around the stadium being considered central campus. However, the growth of the university is now mostly south and to the east. If you look at the satellite overhead view, it is starting to look fairly central even before further expansion.

      To the extent the university needs more building/facilities, the location and plan make a lot of sense. They can go vertical at the stadium without disrupting sight lines where they cannot elsewhere. Given the stellar execution capability of the university, I have little doubt that the result will be top notch and very cool.

      Finally, this announcement is almost certainly the opening for a major fundraising campaign. Despite the focus of this blog, the mission and activity of the university is on the academic side, but there is nothing that stirs the emotions of alums burdened with extra money more than talk of football and facilities.

  11. fnc111 - May 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    ND will not expand to 100k. Common sense will tell you how dumb that is.

    ND’s fan base comes from all over the country for gameday and we have the best television deal in all of college football with NBC. ND has a 6k student body while other schools have 50k. There were a lot of empty seats in the south end zone for this past seasons wake forest game. That was because of their fans returning tickets but the november cold, boring matchups, and smaller student population will always keep ND under 85k in the stadium.

    The best and biggest fan base in the nation is Notre Dame. If it was ND vs no. 1 Texas and ND stadium sat 300,000 people I bet it’d be a sellout. It would be a bad look if there were 3-4k empty seats for a uconn tilt in November.

    A place like Ohio State can fill up 100k because their whole fan base is with in a couple hour drive of the stadium.

    • nudeman - May 5, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      First, what are you doing using the pronoun “we”?
      You come here and rip ND mercilessly every chance you get.

      Secondly … why do you care? Since you have them going 6-6 this year now that their 4th string QB is gone you won’t be watching. Right?

  12. blackirish23 - May 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    1. As an urban designer, I love the fact that the university is taking its time to master plan the entire campus and finding ways to merge scholarship and athletics in a functional capacity.

    2. As an architect, I like the renderings. The designers have done a nice job of bringing the exterior of the stadium down to a human scale. I can imagine entering a typical campus building and discovering the historic stadium on the other side. That sequence could be a really neat experience.

    3. As a undergrad alum, I like the idea of incorporating daily campus events into the stadium. Notre Dame is one of very few institutions that holds true to the notion of “student-athlete”, and this is exemplified by athletes living in the dorms. By incorporating academic uses into our athletic facility, I strongly believe we make that statement even louder. Then again this is a philosophical opinion, but I think having the backdrop of your Theology or Philosophy freshman seminar be the Notre Dame stadium would again be a rather unique experience.

    4. Lastly, as an alum of the grad school, I think Notre Dame could have stumbled on a whole new fan base. Notre Dame has a graduate student population of over 2K, and most of them come from other institutions, and they gladly give away their tickets and never step foot in the stadium. After graduation, very few of them develop the love for the school that the undergrads have. By incorporating academic life into the stadium, we inevitable invite these students to interact with Notre Dame in a unique way that could develop into love for the institution.

    To sum things up, I think it’s an interesting move and could prove to be a great decision for the school. Whether we agree with this or not, I do appreciate the transparency of the university by sharing these designs with us.

    Go Irish!!!

  13. rcali - May 5, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    If some sucker wants to pay $50-$100+ to watch the game from the clouds or the corners, I guess it doesn’t change my view from the couch on my big screen. Have at it Swarby. Maybe it will help bring in some louder people so Notre Dame can grab a home field advantage.

  14. paulhargis53 - May 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    More ND assholes on the building
    How wonderful@

  15. 4horsemenrideagain - May 5, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    That a boy Paul! Ignore your Oedipus complex and take out your angst on a message board instead.

  16. paulhargis53 - May 6, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    Really??! A mom joke? Come on dude.

    I just love you online shrinks….idiot

    • 4horsemenrideagain - May 6, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      Me think the lady protest too much

  17. mediocrebob - May 6, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    People keep bringing up Fenway and Wrigley in comparison with ND stadium and keeping the “tradition” .Fenway underwent a big time renovation in the last 5-8 years. Wrigley is about to dump $500 mil into renovations. You can have it both ways. Sometimes you need to keep up with the times. And none of it matters if you don’t win.

  18. mtheparrothead - May 6, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    Perhaps an upgrade to the camera high risers? Maybe a little more wind resistant? Or maybe just expand by 24,999?

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