Notre Dame Stadium, maybe the most renowned college
football facility in the nation, now qualifies as one
of the most up to date as well, thanks to a major addition
and renovations that boosted its capacity to more than
80,000 beginning with the 1997 campaign.
The '96 campaign proved to be the final one in which
the customary 59,075 fans gathered for Irish home games.
Nearly two years worth of additions and improvements
to the yellow-bricked arena were part of a $50 million
expansion project that added more than 21,000 seats
beginning with the '97 season.
The current capacity of Notre Dame Stadium is 80,795,
a figure that was modified in 2001 from 80,232. In 1997,
the figure was 80,225 which was based on computerized
seating projections made prior to the completion of
the construction of the new seating area.
Notre Dame's football team completed its '95 home schedule
Nov. 4 against Navy - and by the following Monday groundbreaking
ceremonies had been held and work had begun on the 21-month
construction project that was completed Aug. 1, 1997.
Elements of the construction included:
All field seating and the first three rows in the
permanent stands were eliminated to improve sight
A new natural-grass field and a new drainage system
were put in place.
Two new scoreboards were erected on the north and
south ends of the Stadium.
A Jim and Marilyn Fitzgerald Family Sports and Communications
Center, a new three-tier press box with views of both
the field and the campus, was constructed on the west
side - with seating for 330 media in the main portion
of the press box, three television broadcast booths,
five radio broadcast booths and an overall increase
in square footage almost four times the original space.
New landscaping created a park-like setting on the
periphery of the Stadium.
The lockerrooms for both Notre Dame and the visiting
team more than doubled in size - with the Irish locker
area also serving as a permanent area used by Irish
players all year long for both games and practices.
In addition, a new, expanded training room was constructed
adjacent to the lockerroom.
Lights were installed in each corner of the Stadium
bowl and on top of the press box in time for use in
the final month of the '96 season.
Material for the project included 240,000 concrete
blocks, 700,000 new bricks, 500 cubic yards of mortar,
25,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete, five
miles of new handrails and guardrails - and eight
and a half miles of redwood seating.
More than 3,500 sheets of drawings were used to
build the project.
Eleven new openings, for a total of 31, were cut
into the old Stadium brick exterior to allow fans
to connect the old and new lower concourse areas.
The lettering at the north and south canopy as well
as the interlocking ND logo at the top of the press
box west face are gold laminate.
Within the design of the entry gates, fans may notice
the diagonal stripes of the end zone, hash marks and
All existing urinals were refinished as part of
the renovation, and there are approximately two-and-a-half
times more new women's toilets.
Each of the approximately 44,000 old seating brackets
was sandblasted and recoated with an epoxy primer.
Glazed brick was salvaged and reused in the expanded
varsity locker area.
Notre Dame players continue to enter the field down
a set of stairs past the "Play Like A Champion" sign,
but stairs to the visiting locker room have been eliminated,
with the top of the processional tunnel ramp now serving
as the visiting team entrance.
Casteel Construction Corp. of South Bend was the
general contractor for the project. Ellerbe Becket,
Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., was the architect.
The expanded Notre Dame Stadium was dedicated on
the weekend of Notre Dame's 1997 season-opening
game against Georgia Tech, with events including
a three-day open house, a first-ever pep rally in
the Stadium the evening prior to the first game
(more than 35,000 fans attended), plus a Saturday
morning rededication breakfast followed by a ceremonial
ribbon-cutting. Every former Notre Dame football
player was offered the opportunity to purchase tickets
for the Georgia Tech game and prior to the game
the '97 Irish team ran through a tunnel of those
former players in attendance (those practices continue
for the first home game every season).
Other elements of the weekend included a specially-designed
rededication logo, a commemorative video and coffee-table
book detailing the construction project and an official
flip coin for the game against Georgia Tech. The
official game program included a 24-page reproduction
of the 1930 dedication game program and a 16-page
color insert highlighting the expansion.
The Board of Trustees of the University of Notre
Dame approved the plan to expand the facility on
May 6, 1994. The action of the Trustees culminated
a long and comprehensive review within the University
of the feasibility and desirability of stadium expansion.
The project was financed primarily by the November
1994 issuance of $53 million in tax-exempt, fixed-rate
bonds. The bonds were sold in 26 states and the
District of Columbia, with more than 20 percent
sold to retail buyers and almost 80 percent to institutional
The incremental revenues from the expansion will
exceed the debt service on the bonds by $47 million
over the next 30 years, allowing the project not
only to pay for itself, but also to generate $47
million for academic and student life needs.
Stadium expansion was the subject of one of 43
recommendations submitted to the Trustees in May
of 1993 by Notre Dame's president, Rev. Edward A.
Malloy, C.S.C., in his final report of the Colloquy
for the Year 2000. The Colloquy was a University-wide
self-study carried out by committees composed of
faculty, students and staff.
Father Malloy's report specified the conditions
addressed by the approved expansion plan with regards
to financing and use of stadium revenues, as well
as matters of aesthetics, logistics, community relations
and communications. The plan approved by the Board
of Trustees addressed each of those issues.
Impetus for the Stadium addition came in September
1991 when the national board of directors of the
Notre Dame Alumni Association adopted a resolution
encouraging the University to study the feasibility
of expanding the Stadium.
Notre Dame Stadium, at 59,075, previously ranked
44th in seating capacity among the 107 Division
I-A football facilities.
With capacity increased to 80,795, it now ranks
15th - with Notre Dame ranking eighth nationally
in attendance in 1997, 11th in '98, 10th in '99,
13th in 2000 and 14th in 2001. Notre Dame's average
per-game increase of 21,150 fans in '97 ranked second
nationally and helped contribute to record attendance
figures of 36.9 million in '97 for all of college
football, including 27.5 million for Division I-A
Alumni are the major beneficiaries of the expansion,
with about 16,000 of the 21,000 new seats allocated
to Notre Dame graduates, with access primarily through
the lottery. Increased access to tickets also is
in place for University benefactors, the parents
of Notre Dame students and University employees.
Full-time University support staff now enjoy the
same access to tickets as faculty and administrators.
Ticket allotments for alumni clubs and class "mini-reunions"
also have increased.