Bigger Than Brick - Big Improvements in Game Day Experience

Author: Ami Driscoll

Big Improvements in Game Day Experience

You won't believe the vast additions to the game day experience at Notre Dame Stadium in 2017.

July 23, 2017

Throughout the 2017 football season we will be giving you a behind the scenes look at the Campus Crossroads Project on social media - you can follow along with the #NDBiggerThanBrick hashtag. Why #NDBiggerThanBrick? Back in Notre Dame's 1930 Alumnus magazine, it was stated "Notre Dame is bigger than brick and far more than mortar."

There's an obvious new look to the outside of Notre Dame Stadium--with the significant presence of Duncan Student Center on the west side, Corbett Family Hall on the east and O'Neill Hall on the south end.

Yet, once inside Notre Dame Stadium, Irish football fans also will find all sorts of changes and new amenities that will make their game day more enjoyable.

When University of Notre Dame senior deputy athletics director Missy Conboy began planning how Notre Dame Stadium would look and operate when the venerable gridiron facility opened for business in 2017, she started with nearly a blank slate. Four years later, that slate is blank no more.

Notre Dame's 87-year-old football venue traditionally featured a strictly bare-bones approach--in great part because, in the past, the stadium was utilized only for home football games, the annual spring football game and, most recently, the University Commencement exercise after it outgrew Purcell Pavilion.

Twenty years ago the University added about 20,000 new seats and associated restrooms and concession areas on the upper concourse. A few years later the Notre Dame Monogram Club funded celebratory displays at the various gates honoring consensus national championship teams and coaches, All-Americans, Heisman Trophy winners and Pro Football Hall of Fame selections.

One by one, sculptures of Notre Dame's national title winning coaches--Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz--were added and were eventually moved outside to identify the entry gates. Displaced during the construction, the sculptures of those iconic figures will be back in their former locations soon--but upon entering those gates fans will find that Conboy and her team have staged a major transformation.

The south end of the stadium, inside the Leahy Gate, is one of the new focal points. As fans enter this space, the original 1930 Notre Dame Stadium dedication plaque (for many years relegated to the west-side elevator lobby at the media entrance) is now prominently featured. Displays highlighting Irish All-Americans, Heisman Trophy winners, national champions and members of the College Football Hall of Fame activate this space, as do four 80-inch video monitors strategically placed in this venue. The static displays will be anything but. The 2017 season opener against Temple includes an on-campus salute to Notre Dame's newest Hall of Fame inductee, Bob Crable, and Irish fans' expect such ceremonies to be frequent events. Stadium tours will depart from the Leahy Gate as well, and there will be a combination of tradition and innovation on display along the tour route.

The concourses--featuring all new way-finding signage, art deco-period chandeliers and bricked columns--inject great ambiance into the formerly stark lower concourse. Visitors will view oversized displays of historical game program covers (70) and tickets (22), many of which help to tell the many stories of Notre Dame football. Stretched canvas scrims adorned with a pattern that subtly mimics the original stadium gates and large images of the vintage leprechaun screen the stadium mechanical areas. The upper concourses feature hand-painted Notre Dame branding--including the ND monogram, shamrock and popular Irish expressions.

The focus of the renovation is delightfully obvious. While fans over the past two decades often boasted that the original 1930s stadium was "carefully preserved" beneath the 1997 addition, it never received the white glove treatment it deserves. Through careful cleaning, brick restoration and the addition of wall washing light fixtures that highlight the original façade, Rockne's stadium is once again the celebrated icon. Columns from the 1997 addition are now clad in brick and stone to match the original stadium, and the lower concourse now feels like a destination rather than simply a pass-through.

Yet this renovation does not wallow in nostalgia, thanks to a concerted effort to bridge the past to the present. As fans move up the stairs to upper-level seating, additional imagery creates transitions from a legacy story to a current, modern-day emphasis featuring a mix of game atmosphere and football action photos. The large walls on four newly created equipment storage areas highlight modern football-themed graphics, some featuring the Notre Dame Under Armour uniforms, with the Gate E location focusing on the current team and head coach Brian Kelly.

Modernization has helped create other fan-friendly aspects to improve the game day experience:

•Restrooms on all levels include new lighting, flooring and fixtures. All bathrooms were renovated and now comply with accessibility standards. Sinks and trough urinals have been replaced by new individual wall mounted fixtures. All water closets now have automatic flush valves. Every restroom has new LED lighting and speakers for the public address and paging system. Dropped ceilings are gone, and the original structure painted. Look up and notice the period specific light fixtures. New toilet partitions sport art deco-inspired numbers and echo the branding graphics within the concourse. Improved amenities, coupled with aesthetic branding, will make restroom visits less foreboding.

•Benches and drink rails now appear throughout the concourses. The backs of the benches were constructed from reclaimed bleacher wood, as were the drink rails.

•New portable concessions stands, condiment stands and trash/recycling also have been introduced. While lower bowl concessions facades were painted to highlight the original bead-board trim from the 1930s stadium, every stand is now outfitted with multiple video monitors that can feature either game coverage, menu options or both.

Floor graphics in this area bring the feeling of the field inside the concourses. Fans will know if they are standing on the extended 20-, 30-, 40- or 50-yard line. These field graphics also serve as a way-finding cue to identify where fans are in areas within the stadium. Customers will enjoy the refreshed concessions menu developed by Levy, the new concessionaire, which features new low price points for key menu items.

•The entire lower bowl been reseated, with all those seats now two inches wider than in the past. The "gold" seats are now, inexplicably, blue.

•The video board in the south end zone (96 feet across by 54 feet high) will enhance fan experience and generate a greater level of excitement. The content will feature live game action, replays, celebratory moments in Notre Dame history and promotion of Notre Dame core values.

•Ribbon boards will run the length of Corbett Family Hall and Duncan Student Center buildings, approximately 3.75 feet in height. Like the video board, these ribbons will feature key game information, stats and important messaging.

•Video monitors (149 of them, most of them 55 inches in width) in various locations throughout the concourses emphasize a special focus on concession stand facades.

•A new audio system has been installed featuring concert-quality sound. A speaker array flanks each side of the video board in the south end of the stadium, and the sound system in the concourse areas is new.

•An open, fan-facing Wi-Fi network is available throughout the seating area of the bowl and the concourses, allowing fans to more easily stay connected with their mobile devices. Notre Dame has partnered with AmpThink to design and build the network, with approximately 1,200 access points installed throughout the bowl and concourse. Cellular coverage has been greatly enhanced through the addition of a distributed antenna system (DAS).

Conboy (who worked on the project alongside associate athletics director Beth Hunter, University vice president for facilities design and operation Doug Marsh and University director of interior architecture Julie Boynton) sums up the renovated look and new amenities quite succinctly: "We want fans visiting Notre Dame Stadium for the first time to say that the experience is exactly what they expected from Notre Dame. We want returning fans to feel that this is how it should have been all along."

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