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Courtesy of Notre Dame
An artist's rendering of possible additions to Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame explores additions to football stadium

Notre Dame Stadium could be getting a new look.

The university announced Thursday that it is exploring possible additions to the stadium to take better use of the space of the campus' centrally located facility.

The feasibility study will look at attaching buildings to the stadium that could house a student center, media center, classrooms, conference center and other uses. Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said the study will also explore how to enhance the fan experience at football games, including additional premium seating and video boards.

Notre Dame Stadium, which opened in 1930 and was expanded to its current configuration in 1997, is used fewer than 10 times a year for football games, commencement and recreational events, according to the university.

"Inspired by the University's campus master plan, we will study the possibility of accomplishing multiple objectives – namely, preserve the campus' pedestrian character by taking advantage of a central location for needed facilities, retain the integrity of a legendary stadium, improve the visual attractiveness of the exterior stadium wall, and enhance the game-day experience for our football fans," Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame president, said in a statement.

Brown said the feasibility study is expected to take six to nine months, and if Notre Dame moves forward with any projects, the construction phase could take two to three years.

Brown said there are two features of the stadium that have been deemed off limits as the university explores expansion options.

"We are not going to touch the inner bowl, the original stadium that (former Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne) built." Brown said. "We maintained that original bowl when we expanded the stadium from 1995 to '97.

"We are also sensitive to the view (over the north end zone of the stadium) of the Word of Life Mosaic, which is also known as Touchdown Jesus, and the fact that that is an iconic image, and we would be inclined to maintain that view."

Brown said there are no preconceived notion of what the new premium seating would be, and that the university would look at increase the current stadium capacity from 80,795 to about 83,000 to 84,000.

"It could be club seats or something along those lines," Brown said the additional seating.

And although the artist's rendering the university released does not show plans for additions of video boards or a Jumbotron, Brown said those additions – along with possibly replacing the grass field with turn – have not been ruled out.

"We are going to take a look at any and everything when it comes to enhancing the fan experience," Brown said. "There are no preconceived notions. It is certainly something we would study."

Brown said the university looked at Lambeau Field, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, the Rose Bowl and Michigan's and Ohio State's football stadiums to develop ideas for the potential project.

He also stressed that the project is about more than football.

"The stadium has over the last 30 or 40 years become very centrally located in the middle of campus," Brown said. "There is a lot of foot traffic through there, and it makes sense to have a large multipurpose facility for students at that location. … It's an integration of academics and student life and athletics."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.

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