ndnavy_rf_11162019_30.JPG

How many tickets is the right number of tickets to sell in a time of social distancing?

SOUTH BEND — Season ticket sales for Notre Dame football’s 2020 season are roughly at their pre-pandemic levels.

That the questions and concerns from Irish fans about what the Notre Dame Stadium experience will look like — assuming there will be a Notre Dame Stadium experience in 2020 — have deluged the ticket office this spring was reason enough to delay the deadline for fans to purchase season tickets.

Again.

The already-amended deadline of May 15 was recently moved to June 1 in the hopes of allowing more answers to surface about how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact the season.

One of those answers came into focus Friday, when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed his five-stage plan for reopening the state.

And provided he doesn’t have to pump the breaks on the timetable at some point, July 4 marks the date of the return of sporting events to the state while observing social-distancing guidelines.

So now season ticket sales become a math problem connected to a whole bunch of logistical ones: How many is the right number of season tickets to sell for the 77,522-seat stadium in a time of social distancing?

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the school’s long-standing policy of allotting only about half of the facility’s seats to be sold as season tickets — a lower percentage than most schools by design — is a benevolent bounce in the complicated process this season.

“So many people want to make an annual pilgrimage to this place for a football game that we’re committed to always keeping 50 percent of the venue available without a season ticket,” he said Tuesday during a Zoom conference call.

The other pandemic positive in the way Notre Dame normally does business is the staggered stages of ticket sales from that point on — ticket lottery, single-game sales, which this year are set to take place in early June and early July, respectively.

“Each one of those junctures gives us an opportunity to have a little better data about, ‘You know what, maybe we should go into this season just thinking only 45,000 people instead of 78,000,’” Swarbrick said.

“So our system sort of lends itself into going back and asking that question over and over again before we release tickets. And that’s what we intend to do.”

They also intend to provide full refunds as an option if certain home games or the entire home schedule is canceled.

The other options in that event are applying the entire refund as a credit for 2021 season tickets or donating all or a portion of the refund to the Rockne Athletics Fund that provides direct and immediate support to Notre Dame student-athletes.

In the event a game is postponed or rescheduled, tickets will not be refunded or exchanged.

Notre Dame’s six-game home schedule is still projected to kick off Sept. 12 against Arkansas, two weeks after the season opener with Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

The rest of the home slate comprises games against Western Michigan (Sept. 19), Stanford (Oct. 10), Duke (Oct. 31), Clemson (Nov. 7) and Louisville (Nov. 21).

“From a game ops perspective, it starts with the team and the students,” Swarbrick said. “So we are working through all of the issues that sort of fall into that category.

“Do we need to do something additional with our locker room? Do we need to create additional space, taking the locker room we have now and maybe using our gameday locker room in the stadium for some students and the one in our football building for others?

“Do we approach practice differently in terms of the interaction during the course of practice? What does the weight room look like? How many people do we have in there at a time? How do we maintain the equipment between reps? All of those things are the things we’re working through.”

In terms of the gameday dynamic, even things like the traditional player walk has to be mulled as to whether it makes sense to still do it in 2020.

“Relative to the facility itself, what will the entries into the stadium look like? How will we change the concession experience? Most people are going cashless now. How can we also manage the lines there?

“I think we can control a lot in the stadium of the gameday experience. I think tailgating creates a much more difficult dynamic to control and to establish some regulations around and have it be the safest environment that you can.

“Having said all that, the real starting point for us in a lot of our analysis is that when we look at keeping our students safe and what their experience will be. We’re focused on all our students.

“So if our football team can play, our other students should be able to be in the stadium and watch them play. And so first and foremost, we’re focused on their safety, what that looks like, how they came into the stadium, what the seating arrangements are for the other students on campus.”

ehansen@sbtinfo.com

Twitter: @EHansenNDI

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.