ND AD Swarbrick details Campus Crossroads' impact

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Tradition on one side, innovation on the other.

With the ongoing Campus Crossroads Project, Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick hopes to satisfy both.

The $400 million project – which will provide more than 750,000 square feet of classroom, research and hospitality space in the form of buildings on the south, east and west sides of Notre Dame Stadium, while also adding video boards and improved seating, among other improvements, inside the stadium – is set to be completed in August 2017.

Earlier this week, Swarbrick detailed how the university plans to preserve the heart of a stadium that opened in 1930, while simultaneously planning for the future.

“For us, that project – the crossroads project that I take enormous pride in – is principally about using key real estate in the university to meet a broad number of needs; to be a new home for psychology, anthropology, music and sacred music; to give us new student resources like a new career center and a new recreation facility; to create a home for digital media, which is so important to the university’s future,” Swarbrick said in a presentation on the future of college athletics. “When you start with the philosophy of integrating athletics and education and making sure when you make decisions like that you’re serving those goals, it puts you in a better spot.

“Only then do you get to the second question: how do you balance that with the important traditions of the facility that exist and the things you need to do to make it more effective going forward? I think we strike a very nice balance here.

“I think we’ve done that by taking the approach that we’re preserving the inner bowl. We’re essentially preserving the Rockne bowl, and we want the experience when you sit in those seats – albeit I hope the seats are a little more comfortable after we’re done – that your experience is the same. You don’t see commercial advertising. You see people seated in common environments. The focus is on the game. It’s a tight environment. All the things that have made that such a special venue. When you look in the other direction, when you look outward, you are going to see differences. But I think that’s a good balance. It uses an important asset to help us grow in the future, but preserves what is essential to its original form and format.”

But specifically, what will the in-stadium changes look like?

Though he didn’t elaborate on the video board that will be added to the south side of the stadium, or the ribbon boards that will line the stadium’s bowl, Swarbrick did provide specifics on the incoming seating improvements, and how those changes will affect the fluctuating capacity.

“In the bowl, as referenced earlier, we’re trying to make as few changes as possible,” Swarbrick said. “For general seating, there will be two changes. We’ll have a composite material for the benches, rather than the wood that splinters. It’ll look the same. Optically, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell much of a difference. But I think it will be a sturdier, more comfortable experience. Second, we’re going to take, generally speaking, a seat out of every row to give a little more space for people within each of those rows. Again, we hope that provides for a better experience. America is not getting any less girth-y as we move forward, so our seating needs to reflect that.

“And then we’ll lose some seats, frankly. We’re still hoping very much to create a second tunnel entrance from the visitors’ locker room onto the field. That will take some seats. I want to removes as many people from the sidelines and on the field as possible, again, for safety reasons, but also to create the environment we want to create. Some of those people will probably move up into the seats. Those will largely be the differences.”

A crisscrossing array of large construction cranes is visible Tuesday on the University of Notre Dame campus as work proceeds on the Campus Crossroads project around Notre Dame Stadium. Work has been progressing steadily since November on the $400 million project, which in­volves constructing new academic and student life buildings on three sides of the football stadi­um: a nine-story student center/student life build­ing on the west side; a nine-story anthropology/ psychology/digital media center on the east side; and a six-story music building on the south side. The project is expected to be completed in summer 2017. Construction continues on the Campus Crossroads project on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)