Notre Dame unveils $400 million stadium project

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The University of Notre Dame will move ahead with a $400 million project to add three academic and student life buildings on the exterior of Notre Dame Stadium, university leaders announced today.

The project, which will transform the exterior appearance of the iconic 84-year-old football stadium, will be the most expensive construction project in the university's history.

The project includes three new buildings totaling 750,000 square feet that will be constructed as additions on the exterior of Notre Dame Stadium, with premium seating for fans and outdoor terraces overlooking the football field on the top floors of both the east and west buildings.

A variety of premium seating options — both indoor and outdoor, and mostly club-style — will be available on three upper levels on both sides. A hospitality area also is planned for the new building on the south end of the stadium.

All three buildings will be attached to the football stadium. The east and west buildings will be nine stories high, and the south building will be six stories.

The news comes a week after the announcement that Notre Dame signed a 10-year contract for Under Armour to be the exclusive outfitter of all 26 Fighting Irish varsity sports teams. Estimates say that deal could be worth $90 million to $100 million.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, vows to retain the atmosphere and traditional feel inside the stadium, which was built during the tenure of coaching legend Knute Rockne. This is only the second major change to the stadium since it was built.

The plan, dubbed the Campus Crossroads project, was presented to the university’s board of trustees during meetings Tuesday and today in Rome.

Jenkins, in an interview last week, said he didn’t come easily to the decision to recommend the project.

“It’s an iconic stadium. People’s memories are so invested in the place. They see a place that has preserved tradition,” the priest said.

“We have this large structure near the center of campus that we use eight days a year,” he said. The stadium is used primarily for home football games and for the spring commencement ceremony.

The project will include the following construction:

--A nine-story student center/student life building on the west side, where the press box now stands. The existing press box will be renovated into a premium seating area for the football stadium.

The student center will include meeting rooms, student lounges, a dining area, student organization space, administrative offices, a career services center, a 500-seat ballroom, club seating for football and booths for NBC Sports. The upper floors also will contain boxes for home and visiting coaches, security booths, and boxes for administrative and athletic department leaders.

The student center will include recreational sports and fitness facilities. Rolfs Sports Recreation Center, the current student fitness center, will be renovated to become the practice facility for the men’s and women’s varsity basketball teams.

--A nine-story anthropology/psychology/digital media center will be constructed on the east side.

The upper floors will contain the stadium press box, outdoor club seating for football fans, outdoor terraces, and a large space that will double as a club area and a flexible classroom, and radio booths.

The lower floors will provide centralized offices, laboratories and tutoring space for the anthropology and psychology departments, which are now housed in a variety of locations on campus. The first floor will contain a digital media center with a 2,000-square-foot studio, production, teaching and research facilities.

--A six-story music building will be constructed on the south side. The department of music and sacred music program will move to this facility, which will include recital and rehearsal halls, a music library and a 350-seat club/lounge.

The top three floors of the east and west buildings will be visible above the current stadium wall and will have views looking onto the field. The top (sixth) story of the south building will be visible above the stadium wall, but none of the floors in that south building will have a view into the stadium.

“I think you’ll find the traditional feel of the stadium will be enhanced,” Jenkins said.

No construction is planned for the north side, where the Hesburgh Library mural popularly called “Touchdown Jesus” faces the stadium.

The interior of the stadium and the football field itself aren’t expected to be significantly altered by the project, according to Jenkins.

The project may result in an increase of 3,000 to 4,000 seats in the stadium, increasing the total current capacity of 80,795. Improvements may slightly reduce the seating capacity in the current seating bowl of the stadium, so a total new capacity figure isn’t yet determined, campus spokesman Paul Browne said.

The building projects are expected to take about 33 months to complete. A start date hasn’t been set.

The university has a policy of moving ahead with construction projects only when 100 percent of the funding is identified, and 70 percent of that is cash on hand.

Jenkins says the project is intended to “enhance the beauty of campus.” Notre Dame leaders have been crafting a new campus strategic plan, which includes physical improvements to advance the academic mission.

“It’s important to us that the campus remain compact so it remains a pedestrian campus,” Jenkins said. “We need buildings and we don’t want sprawl.”

Working on the project with Doug Marsh, Notre Dame’s university architect, is a team including: the S/L/A/M Collaborative, lead architects; RATIO Architects, co-designers; Workshop Architects, for the student center; 360 Architecture, for the recreation center and hospitality areas; and Barton Marlow Co., contractor.

The three buildings will be in the collegiate gothic style, with materials and details designed to closely match Notre Dame Stadium.

The student center addition is expected to supplement, but not replace, LaFortune Student Center, Jenkins said. Some student offices are expected to move from LaFortune and other areas on campus to the new facility.

The university’s music program currently is based in Crowley Hall, which will be converted to a new use.

The psychology department has offices in seven different buildings on campus, and a move to a new building will consolidate that department, Browne said.

The vacated spaces on campus likely will quickly fill.

Notre Dame in December announced plans to hire about 80 new faculty members in 10 key areas of research. “We’re going to need space for all those faculty,” Jenkins said.

Notre Dame leaders revealed last May that they were undertaking a feasibility study to determine whether additions should be built on the stadium to make it a year-round hub for academic and student life purposes. Since then, there have been extensive discussions with faculty, administrators and the athletics department.

Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930. It was modeled, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan’s football stadium. The original stadium had seating for 59,075 people. An expansion in the 1990s costing $53 million added new seating, permanent lighting two new scoreboards and a new press box.

See more details about the project at:


Twitter: @mfosmoe

An architectural rendering of the University of Notre Dame's Campus Crossroads project, which will add buildings on the east, west and south sides of Notre Dame Stadium. Photo provided by the University of Notre Dame
A 3-D version of the University of Notre Dame's Campus Crossroads project. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University Photographer
An architectural rendering of a recreational climbing wall, a possible element in the new student center that will be built on the west side of Notre Dame Stadium. Photo Provided by the University of Notre Dame
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, standing by the 3-D image of the Campus Crossroad project. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University Photographer
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, answers questions during an interview on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, inside his office on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, answers questions during an interview on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, inside his office on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
11/6/2005: The "new" 55,000 seat Notre Dame stadium, built in three months, was considered state-of-the-art. 6/11/2006: Knute Rockne's South Bend: Notre Dame Stadium
This 1930 football program from the formal dedication of Notre Dame Stadium is among items to be auctioned off Saturday to benefit the Center for the Homeless. The auction is one of three major fund-raisers that account for about a quarter of the center's annual budget.