Notre Dame Stadium project brings ticketing changes in 2017

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The changes coming to Notre Dame Stadium as part of the Campus Crossroads project will also bring changes for Notre Dame football tickets.

Starting next season, bench seats in Notre Dame Stadium won’t all share the same price. General public tickets will come with eight different face values – four for the lower bowl and four for the upper bowl.

“It’s the most fundamental change that we’ve made in pricing in a long time,” said Rob Kelly, Notre Dame’s associate athletic director of ticketing, premium and technology.

In 2011, the Irish introduced a tiered pricing system that pegged individual games at various price levels. But the tickets themselves all held the same face value — excluding tickets for students and the gold seats. That will change next season. A seat at the 50-yard line will no longer cost the same as a seat in the last row of the end zone.

“The move to the tiered pricing was about broadening access,” Kelly said.

That access, in terms of physical seats, will also change next season. The current capacity of Notre Dame Stadium sits at 80,795. That number will shrink to somewhere between 78,000 and 80,000, Kelly said.

The widening of bench seats from 16 to 18 inches in the lower bowl will account for a majority of the reduction in seats. The math isn’t exact yet, but the lower and upper bowls are expected to seat roughly 75,000 fans.

“Right now what we’re still dialing in is how the changes in the lower bowl, like the addition of the visiting team tunnel and we’re taking the field seats out of the manifest. Those will go away,” Kelly said. “We’re removing all of the temporary aluminum seats in the upper bowl to add additional ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) seating because we’ve come pretty close to running out of wheelchair accessible seating.”

The remaining capacity will be accounted for in premium seating. The Campus Crossroads project will introduce 3,264 seats in the club and loge area. Additional seating will be in corporate club spaces.

Kelly said his staff has already sold over 90 percent of the premium seating ahead of next season. He expects it to be sold out by the spring.

“We’ve been extremely successful in our sales efforts particularly because we’ve made it a point to have our meetings on football weekends around football games,” Kelly said. “We’re getting people up to tour the spaces. Once people get up into the raw space to see the views, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ They understand what a phenomenal view and experience it’s going to be.”

Fans interested in information on premium seating can sign up at und.com/footballtickets. Kelly said tours are scheduled for this weekend and will take place at various times leading into the spring.

Pricing information on premium seating has not been made public. But Kelly did share that the cost includes a capital gift payment, which gives the purchaser access to the seat for 20 years, and an annual amount that consists of the ticket price, the cost of the amenities and a contribution to the university.

The loge seating, which includes separate group seating of four and six seats at counter-style tables, has already sold out. Spots remain available in the club seating area. Both premium areas include access to an indoor space, all-inclusive food and beverage and other perks.

Kelly said the performance of Notre Dame’s football team this season hasn’t impacted sales of premium seating. The sales staff has already surpassed his goal of 85 percent by the end of the year.

“What’s really fascinating about the conversation we have as it relates to premium seating, that when you’re talking to somebody about the opportunity to partake in that experience, there’s two really fundamental things that make it different,” Kelly said.

“One, it’s a wholly different experience. We’re talking about an exclusive club area behind the brand new club seats covered with heating elements above your seating and all-inclusive food and beverage. And you’re talking about a 20-year time horizon. That expands people past sort of what’s going on right now.”

The changes in Notre Dame Stadium have left Kelly’s staff with a lot of seating algebra in setting up the manifest for next season. An extra staff member was brought on to help sort through the options available for season ticket holders. Because of the seats being removed in the lower bowl, some season ticket holders may not be able to sit in the exact same location moving forward. But Kelly said the changes should be minimal.

“The commitment we’re making to season ticket holders is you’re going to keep your approximate seat location unless you choose to move," Kelly said. "As long as you’re willing to pay the new pricing that we present you, then we will keep you approximately where you’re at.

"That may change just because if you take a couple seats out, we may need to slide you over. There may be a situation where it does pinch enough and we have to move you up one row or down one row. It’s very small. We’re going to do our best to keep people who are on aisles on aisles and in the front row in the front row.”

Kelly declined to share the season ticket costs for next season, which will include the start of a new building fund, because his staff has yet to contact all of the current season ticket holders about their options for next season. He expects everyone to receive some information by the end of the year with the process stretching into the renewal period in March and April.

The ticket office is working on presenting additional benefits to season ticket holders including a free parking option, free or discounted access to other athletic events and discounts on concessions and merchandise. The opportunity to purchase the old bench seats being removed from Notre Dame Stadium is also being arranged as a benefit for season ticket renewals.

With so many moving pieces heading into next season, the single game ticket prices were set earlier than last year. The prices won’t be made public until the spring around the opening of the ticket lottery, but the games have been slotted into three tiers. With the eight different price points for bench seats at each game, a variety of options will be available.

“Approximately 50 percent of the bench seats in the new pricing model are going to hold an average ticket price that is the same or reduced from 2016,” Kelly said. “We’re lowering prices in some areas and raising prices in some areas.”

But for all the changes expected in 2017, the following season should have only a minimal difference. The tiered pricing system will stay the same for single game and season tickets.

“We’ve made the decision as a university to freeze ticket prices from 2017 to 2018,” Kelly said. “The thinking there was we wanted to ease the transition for those who will be on the other half of the people realizing a price increase. At least you can guarantee your ticket price will be the same from what it is for 2017 and going into 2018.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Notre Dame and Miami sell out Notre Dame Stadium during the Notre Dame-Miami NCAA college football Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN