Aug. 11, 2017
By John Heisler –
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.”
Phase one of the University of Notre Dame construction project at Notre Dame Stadium meant three new academic and student services buildings, with the introduction of premium seating above the rim. Phase two focused on the fan experience for those sitting in the stadium bowl, with myriad aesthetic and operational improvements to the stadium concourses, concessions, restrooms, seating and connectivity, not to mention a giant video board rising out of the south end.
“We began by creating premium seating opportunities. We were into year three before (University vice president and James E. Rohr director of athletics) Jack Swarbrick gave us the directive to embark on the final phase of the project,” says Missy Conboy, senior deputy athletics director.
“Without a doubt, we were excited about offering all sorts of improved amenities for both hardcore traditional fans, as well as those who yearned for a premium experience. But the phasing gave us plenty of time to consider how we might walk the fine line between upgrading the locker room experience and appealing to the modern day recruit, while still appeasing the traditionalists who revere the inner sanctum of a place that Rockne designed and built.
“Our core committee (including associate athletics directors Beth Hunter and Chad Klunder, plus Notre Dame vice president for facilities design and operation and University architect Doug Marsh, along with University director of interior architecture Julie Boynton) challenged each other with the following mantra: What would Rockne do? Tradition is a core pillar of Notre Dame athletics, but Rockne was an innovator before the term was cache. We couldn’t ignore the possibility that technology would continue to require rule changes, and we needed to be prepared for that eventuality.”
The past meets the present in our new game day home.
– Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 10, 2017
Here’s what Irish players saw Thursday when they walked past the Rockne sculpture and into their renovated locker room at Notre Dame Stadium:
– A new look to the tunnel, with extensive new brickwork all the way down both sides and all new vintage, Art Deco-look banners honoring Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championship teams, plus new ornamental railings that match the design of the original gate at the north end of the stadium
– A 3-by-8-foot stone surface–carved in limestone outside the locker room entrance–highlighting one of Rockne’s famous motivational speeches: “We’re going inside of ’em. We’re going outside of ’em . . . .”
– On the opposite wall, existing plaques honoring each of Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners (those plaques were previously mounted inside the locker room)
– In virtually the same footprint, a completely redone locker room, with multiple large video monitors set amidst period lighting and lots of re-glazed original bricks. The ceiling has been raised to its original height, and the brick showers have been preserved, expanded and modernized. Period-specific subway tile is used conspicuously and creatively in the bathroom spaces.
– Ara Parseghian’s hand-drawn version of the end-zone pass from Tom Clements to Robin Weber in the 1973 Sugar Bowl versus top-ranked Alabama, the play which cemented Notre Dame’s 24-23 victory and another national title, in the vestibule of the Schivarelli Lounge (used on game day for recruits). Hunter asked Parseghian to redraw the play on special paper during a visit to his home this past spring. At age 93, Parseghian pulled up a YouTube video to make sure he remembered it correctly.
– A series of mounted Irish helmets through the years, including recent Shamrock Series editions, mounted on another wall of the Schivarelli Lounge
– Three framed Shamrock Series jerseys in the Schivarelli Lounge, along with a display of Notre Dame football national championship rings inside the reception desk
– A newly-created media room for Notre Dame’s post-game interviews-where spectators can hear and observe the proceedings through clear glass windows on the west side
– Metal all-capital blue letters spelling out “HERE COME THE IRISH” affixed on the brick above the tunnel entryway into the stadium
– Multiple creative uses of the old wood bleacher seating, celebrating an uncomfortable relic of the past
– All new quarters for the visiting team, including a locker room, training room, separate postgame media area and a separate entrance to the field from the northeast corner. The new visiting room amenities surpass what was formerly available to the home team. “We want to be gracious hosts,” Conboy says. “But our hospitality stops when the game begins.”
One element is unabashedly old school: The humble route the players line up to take to the field. “We were not going to change the walk down the stairs or the encounter with the ‘Play Like A Champion Today’ sign,” Conboy explained. “Not a chance.”
It’s all new-and yet there’s an obvious tip of the hat to the Rockne era as Notre Dame celebrates the facility that the former Hall of Fame coach designed himself in advance of its 1930 opening.
Conboy, Hunter, Klunder, Boynton and Marsh all were excited to get the chance to channel Rockne and to impress current Irish coach Brian Kelly.
Based on the players’ reactions Thursday, their game plan was a success.
WATCH: Student-Athletes See Locker Room For First Time
– Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 11, 2017