Notre Dame Stadium

Notre Dame Stadium

Notre Dame Stadium, maybe the most renowned college football facility in the nation, now qualifies as one of the most up to date as well, thanks to a major addition and renovations that boosted its capacity to more than 80,000 beginning with the 1997 campaign.

The '96 campaign proved to be the final one in which the customary 59,075 fans gathered for Irish home games. Nearly two years worth of additions and improvements to the yellow-bricked arena were part of a $50 million expansion project that added more than 21,000 seats beginning with the '97 season.

The current capacity of Notre Dame Stadium is 80,795, a figure that was modified in 2001 from 80,232. In 1997, the figure was 80,225 which was based on computerized seating projections made prior to the completion of the construction of the new seating area.

Notre Dame's football team completed its '95 home schedule Nov. 4 against Navy - and by the following Monday groundbreaking ceremonies had been held and work had begun on the 21-month construction project that was completed Aug. 1, 1997.

Elements of the construction included:

  • All field seating and the first three rows in the permanent stands were eliminated to improve sight lines.
  • A new natural-grass field and a new drainage system were put in place.
  • Two new scoreboards were erected on the north and south ends of the Stadium.
  • A Jim and Marilyn Fitzgerald Family Sports and Communications Center, a new three-tier press box with views of both the field and the campus, was constructed on the west side - with seating for 330 media in the main portion of the press box, three television broadcast booths, five radio broadcast booths and an overall increase in square footage almost four times the original space.
  • New landscaping created a park-like setting on the periphery of the Stadium.
  • The lockerrooms for both Notre Dame and the visiting team more than doubled in size - with the Irish locker area also serving as a permanent area used by Irish players all year long for both games and practices. In addition, a new, expanded training room was constructed adjacent to the lockerroom.
  • Lights were installed in each corner of the Stadium bowl and on top of the press box in time for use in the final month of the '96 season.
  • Material for the project included 240,000 concrete blocks, 700,000 new bricks, 500 cubic yards of mortar, 25,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete, five miles of new handrails and guardrails - and eight and a half miles of redwood seating.
  • More than 3,500 sheets of drawings were used to build the project.
  • Eleven new openings, for a total of 31, were cut into the old Stadium brick exterior to allow fans to connect the old and new lower concourse areas.
  • The lettering at the north and south canopy as well as the interlocking ND logo at the top of the press box west face are gold laminate.
  • Within the design of the entry gates, fans may notice the diagonal stripes of the end zone, hash marks and a football.
  • All existing urinals were refinished as part of the renovation, and there are approximately two-and-a-half times more new women's toilets.
  • Each of the approximately 44,000 old seating brackets was sandblasted and recoated with an epoxy primer.
  • Glazed brick was salvaged and reused in the expanded varsity locker area.
  • Notre Dame players continue to enter the field down a set of stairs past the "Play Like A Champion" sign, but stairs to the visiting locker room have been eliminated, with the top of the processional tunnel ramp now serving as the visiting team entrance.
  • Casteel Construction Corp. of South Bend was the general contractor for the project. Ellerbe Becket, Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., was the architect.

The expanded Notre Dame Stadium was dedicated on the weekend of Notre Dame's 1997 season-opening game against Georgia Tech, with events including a three-day open house, a first-ever pep rally in the Stadium the evening prior to the first game (more than 35,000 fans attended), plus a Saturday morning rededication breakfast followed by a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Every former Notre Dame football player was offered the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Georgia Tech game and prior to the game the '97 Irish team ran through a tunnel of those former players in attendance (those practices continue for the first home game every season).

Other elements of the weekend included a specially-designed rededication logo, a commemorative video and coffee-table book detailing the construction project and an official flip coin for the game against Georgia Tech. The official game program included a 24-page reproduction of the 1930 dedication game program and a 16-page color insert highlighting the expansion.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame approved the plan to expand the facility on May 6, 1994. The action of the Trustees culminated a long and comprehensive review within the University of the feasibility and desirability of stadium expansion.

The project was financed primarily by the November.

1994 issuance of $53 million in tax-exempt, fixed-rate bonds. The bonds were sold in 26 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 20 percent sold to retail buyers and almost 80 percent to institutional buyers.

The incremental revenues from the expansion will exceed the debt service on the bonds by $47 million over the next 30 years, allowing the project not only to pay for itself, but also to generate $47 million for academic and student life needs.

Stadium expansion was the subject of one of 43 recommendations submitted to the Trustees in May of 1993 by Notre Dame's president, Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., in his final report of the Colloquy for the Year 2000. The Colloquy was a University-wide self-study carried out by committees composed of faculty, students and staff.

Father Malloy's report specified the conditions addressed by the approved expansion plan with regards to financing and use of stadium revenues, as well as matters of aesthetics, logistics, community relations and communications. The plan approved by the Board of Trustees addressed each of those issues.

Impetus for the Stadium addition came in September 1991 when the national board of directors of the Notre Dame Alumni Association adopted a resolution encouraging the University to study the feasibility of expanding the Stadium.

Notre Dame Stadium, at 59,075, previously ranked 44th in seating capacity among the 107 Division I-A football facilities.

With capacity increased to 80,795, it now ranks 15th - with Notre Dame ranking eighth nationally in attendance in 1997, 11th in '98, 10th in '99, 13th in 2000 and 14th in 2001. Notre Dame's average per-game increase of 21,150 fans in '97 ranked second nationally and helped contribute to record attendance figures of 36.9 million in '97 for all of college football, including 27.5 million for Division I-A games.

Alumni are the major beneficiaries of the expansion, with about 16,000 of the 21,000 new seats allocated to Notre Dame graduates, with access primarily through the lottery. Increased access to tickets also is in place for University benefactors, the parents of Notre Dame students and University employees. Full-time University support staff now enjoy the same access to tickets as faculty and administrators. Ticket allotments for alumni clubs and class "mini-reunions" also have increased.