Notre Dame Stadium
At every Notre Dame home game, 80,795 screaming fans await the entrance of the Notre Dame football team while chanting, “Here come the Irish!” The current football players run through the same tunnel that Notre Dame legends Joe Montana, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown all ran through – and onto the field once patrolled by Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz.
Notre Dame Stadium was built in 1930 during the Knute Rockne era. It was the success of Knute’s football teams that built the foundation and the lore of the stadium. The spirit that was imbued by the Rockne era – and has been sustained by seven Heisman trophy winners and dozens more All-Americans who have competed on that turf – has changed little in eight decades of football at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Osborn Engineering Company, which had designed more than 50 stadiums in the country-including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City, and facilities at Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota-was awarded the contract and excavation, began that summer.
The Stadium measures a half-mile in circumference, stands 45 feet high and features a glass-enclosed press box rising 60 feet above ground level and originally accommodating 264 writers plus facilities for photographers and radio and television broadcasters. There are more than 2,000,000 bricks in the edifice, 400 tons of steel and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete. The total cost of construction exceeded $750,000, and architecturally the Notre Dame Stadium was patterned, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan’s mammoth stadium.
Though Rockne had a chance to coach in the new facility only in its initial season of use, he took a personal hand in its design. The sod from Cartier Field was transplanted into the new Stadium, but Rockne insisted on its use for football only. He kept the area between the field and the stands small to keep sideline guests, as he called them, to a minimum – and he personally supervised the parking and traffic system that basically is the same one in use today.
Notre Dame Stadium, may be 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 1996 season was the final one played with the customary 59,075 fans at Notre Dame Stadium. A $50-million expansion adding over 21,000 seats was completed before the 1997 season kickoff. To upgrade on the 1997 renovation, two new scoreboards were installed in both end zones before the 2009 season that utilize the latest in LED-screen technologies.
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 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.
Entering 2009, the Irish have played 405 games inside Notre Dame Stadium and compiled a 302-98-5 (.752) record. Notre Dame has also played before a sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium in 205 consecutive games, entering the 2009 season. Since 1966, every Notre Dame home game has been a sellout except one – a Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force.
The Irish have played host to 62 different opponents in games at Notre Dame Stadium and no school that has made at least four trips to South Bend owns a winning record against the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame Stadium Has Legendary History
For all the legendary players and memorable moments it has hosted on its bluegrass turf over the past 361 games, Notre Dame Stadium has unquestionably developed a lore all its own. Now in its 73rd year of service to Irish football, the stadium continues to be one of the most recognizable and revered structures in the world of sport.
But the Notre Dame Stadium that Irish fans have visited and viewed since 1997 underwent the most involved expansion and remodeling since the facility was first built. More than 21,000 new seats are now available, bringing capacity to 80,795.
It was the success of Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame football teams – plus the legendary coach’s own personal building blueprint – that prompted the addition of the original Notre Dame Stadium to the University’s athletic plant back in 1930.
The spirit that was imbued by the Rockne era – and has been sustained by seven Heisman Trophy winners and dozens more All-Americans who have competed on that turf – has changed little in more than seven decades of football at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish first played their games on Cartier Field, then located just north of the current stadium site. But as the University’s national football reputation expanded, thanks to the coaching of Rockne, the need for a new home for the Irish was voiced since no more than 30,000 fans could squeeze into the Cartier facility.
Architectural blueprints and bids were received from prominent contractors throughout the nation once plans became more specific by 1929. The Osborn Engineering Company, which had designed more than 50 stadia in the country – including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City, and facilities at Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota – was awarded the contract and excavation began that summer.
Actual labor on the foundations of the Stadium did not commence until April, 1930, but four months later Notre Dame Stadium opened its 18 gates for its first use.
The Stadium measured a half-mile in circumference, stood 45 feet high and featured a glass-enclosed press box rising 60 feet above ground level and originally accommodating 264 writers plus facilities for photographers and radio and television broadcasters. There were more than 2,000,000 bricks in the original edifice, 400 tons of steel and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete. The total cost of construction exceeded $750,000, and architecturally the Notre Dame Stadium was patterned, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan’s mammoth stadium.
Though Rockne had a chance to coach in the new facility only in its initial season of use, he took a personal hand in its design. The sod from Cartier Field was transplanted into the new Stadium, but Rockne insisted on its use for football only. He kept the area between the field and the stands small to keep sideline guests, as he called them, to a minimum – and he personally supervised the parking and traffic system that remained much the same until the 21,150-seat addition in 1997.
With a crowd on hand far less than the 54,000 capacity, the Irish opened the facility by defeating SMU 20-14 on Oct. 4, 1930. Official dedication ceremonies came a week later against traditional foe Navy. This time, more than 40,000 fans cheered a 26-2 triumph over the Midshipmen. Frank E. Hering, captain of the 1898 team and the first Notre Dame coach as well as president of the Alumni Association, delivered the major speech during the ceremonies.
It took another year before the Irish played before their first capacity crowd (50,731 for the ’31 USC game), but full houses and Notre Dame victories have been the rule rather than the exception. Since that 1930 opening, the Irish have compiled an impressive 276-80-5 (.771) mark in Notre Dame Stadium, while an average of 54,857 spectators have watched.
During 25 of those seasons the Irish did not lose at home. Beginning with a 27-20 win over Northwestern on November 21, 1942, and ending with a 28-14 loss to Purdue on Oct. 7, 1950, Notre Dame won 28 straight games in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish went 4-2 at home in 2001, and just missed out on a perfect 6-0 home record in 2000, after losing to Nebraska 27-24 in overtime. Notre Dame was 5-2 at home in ’99 after completing the 1998 campaign with a 6-0 mark, their first undefeated season at home since 1989.
Notre Dame’s largest crowd ever to witness a game in the Stadium prior to the expansion was 61,296 in a 24-6 loss to Purdue on Oct. 6, 1962. However, attendance figures since 1966 have been based on paid admissions, rather than total in the house, thus accounting for the familiar 59,075 figure every week prior to ’97.
Since that 1966 season every Irish home game has been a sellout, with the exception of a Thanksgiving Day matchup with Air Force in 1973. That game, won by the Irish 48-15, had been changed to the holiday to accomodate national television and was played with students absent from campus.
Navy again was the opponent in 1979 when Notre Dame celebrated the 50th season of service of Notre Dame Stadium. Commemorative edition tickets which were authentic reproductions used for the 1930 dedication game were used.
The final home game of 1991 against Tennessee saw two more stadium milestones reached. The 100th straight sellout crowd entered the stadium, which was hosting its 300th game since the 1930 opening.
Since that day, 272 of the 361 games (including 209 of the last 210) played in Notre Dame Stadium have been viewed by capacity crowds for a .753 percentage.
On the road the Irish have played before 236 capacity crowds among the 400 games (.590). The total .668 percentage includes 508 capacity crowds of 761 games.
Notre Dame Stadium
113, Notre Dame, IN, 46556
Notre Dame Stadium
113, Notre Dame, IN, 46556