Sept. 16, 2009
By Amanda Bremer
Sports Information Student Assistant
The Notre Dame soccer teams have a new home this year, and it promises to be a real home field advantage.
Alumni Stadium is a $5.7-million facility with a full set of amenities for players, coaches, and fans. The lighted stadium features a natural grass field, locker rooms, restrooms and concessions.
Women’s head coach Randy Waldrum and men’s head coach Bobby Clark are very pleased with the array of features offered.
The natural grass field was brought in from Colorado and is easily the highlight of the new facility.
“The field is the most exciting part,” men’s assistant coach Chad Riley notes. “It’s the same grass that’s used for the Colorado Rapids, the professional team in Denver.”
It is a short, quick surface, which compliments both teams’ playing styles.
“Bobby [Clark] and I both wanted it (to be) a little faster surface,” Waldrum says. “Clearly, by being able to get the grass in here that you can cut shorter, it will make a huge difference.”
Another standout feature is the locker rooms. They are built directly into the stadium, which allows the team to conduct practices, games, team meetings and watch film all in the same building. Previously, the teams used locker rooms in either the Joyce Center (men) or Eck Stadium (women).
“We were a bit cramped in the old locker rooms. The new locker rooms are so spacious. The players that move from the current location to the new location, it will just be so different for them,” Clark says.
The facility also features new team lounges, which Waldrum calls his favorite feature.
“From a coach’s standpoint, the lounge areas are going to be the part that we enjoy the most,” the 11th-year Irish coach states. “That lounge area will be where we will be doing most of the video work with the team, and it will be a place where we can bring recruits and their families.”
While Alumni Stadium is a very nice addition for the players and coaches, it is also great for the fans.
“It’s very good for the players, but it’s very user friendly for the spectators,” Clark says. “It has good viewpoints and the seats are comfortable. Your back is to the prevailing wind, so you’re more sheltered.”
“You can see the Joyce Center and Touchdown Jesus in the backdrop,” Waldrum adds. “I think it’s a great image for Notre Dame to have all that in the background.”
The stadium is also more centrally located than Alumni Field. Alumni Stadium is located east of the Joyce Center and adjacent to the LaBar Practice Complex and Arlotta Family Stadium, the latter being the new Notre Dame lacrosse facility that will be completed later this year.
“It is much easier for people to get there,” Clark says. “Now with parking adjacent, and being close to campus, these are huge advantages. I’m hoping students will find this a really nice alternative.”
Both coaches were able to give a fair amount of input through the planning process, making the stadium truly the teams’ home. Coaches were able to attend theme meetings, giving their opinions about the locker rooms and the team lounges.
“When you are building a new home, there are so many things you don’t think about — simple things, like where the electrical outlets should be and the electronics for when we watch video,” Waldrum says.
“I must compliment the staff, the builders and the architects for the work they’ve done and communicating with the men’s and women’s programs,” Clark states. “We’ve been called to numerous meetings; you really feel you are part of it.”
Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on April 26, 2008 with construction beginning in the summer of 2008. The field officially opened a little more than one year later on Sept. 1, 2009, when the Notre Dame men’s team shut out Michigan 5-0. The women’s team hosted their first game in the new facility three days later, falling to North Carolina.
Waldrum described his feelings before the first game, saying “To know that we are playing in this fantastic new stadium and to see so many people packed in there was surreal. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of several of our Final Four appearances. Even though those are bigger stadiums with eight or ten thousand people, it had the same kind of atmosphere.”
The principal benefactors of the project were former Irish soccer players Tom Crotty and Rob Snyder. Crotty played three seasons at Notre Dame, and served as one of the team captains for the 1979 season, in which he was voted MVP. He played in 60 games, recording 23 career points and earning three monograms.
Snyder played for the Irish from 1980-1983, recording 68 points in 51 games. In 1981 he tied for the team lead in goals with 12. He ranks seventh all time in career assists for Notre Dame, recording 22.
Both players continued their success after their time at Notre Dame. Crotty, who graduated in 1980 with a finance degree, is general partner with Battery Ventures LP in Wellesley, Mass. Snyder graduated in 1984 with a degree in government, and is the founder and CEO of Steam Energy in Dallas, Texas.
Both Irish soccer coaches were very grateful for the donation from the former players.
“It is fantastic when you get two former players that want to give back to the University and the program,” Clark comments.
“To create that kind of money for this program says a lot about what their experience was when they were here at Notre Dame,” Waldrum notes.
While the facility is now open for play, some features are unfinished. Further seating will be added, and finishing touches are needed in the press box and locker rooms. Final capacity has not been announced, but the facility will house enough seating to make Notre Dame eligible to host NCAA tournament play.
The Irish called Alumni Field home from 1990-2008. Both teams have enjoyed great successes there, with the women compiling a 222-16-4 record, and the men going 129-39-18. The teams look to thrive in the new Alumni Stadium, building off their many past accomplishments and achieving even more.
“I see this as one of the last pieces of the puzzle that wraps everything together,” Waldrum observes. “We’ve always sold our academics, we’ve always sold the University, and we’ve always sold our program. This is the last piece, to have that world class stadium.”
Clark echoes his counterpart’s sentiments, saying “I’ve always said people are more important than facilities, but it doesn’t hurt to have good people and nice facilities.”
— ND —