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Students, alumni react to Notre Dame Stadium renovation plans

By Kelli Stopczynski
Published On: Jan 29 2014 04:46:46 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2014 07:40:20 PM CST

A $400 million dollar expansion to Notre Dame Stadium is sparking some strong reaction. WSBT's Kelli Stopczynski has the story.

NOTRE DAME -

It’s a massive project – 3 new buildings, more space for anthropology, psychology and music departments, a hub for student activities and a ballroom for 500 people.

The renovations planned for Notre Dame’s football stadium also include between 3,000 and 4,000 new, club-style seats.

The timeline to get the $400 million project is quick. Notre Dame plans to break ground when it has 100 percent of the money pledged and 75 percent in hand, said university spokesman, Dennis Brown. That could happen by the end of this football season, but not everyone is on board with the project.

“I’m not happy about attaching anything to the Knute Rockne stadium,” said 1969 Notre Dame Alumn Rick Hunt.

Hunt and other Alumni and life-long fans were fired up Wednesday afternoon inside Joe’s Tavern, on South Bend’s west side – where scenes from the famous movie ‘Rudy’ were filmed. Hunt said he understood why the university wants to make changes, but he has questions about the largest building project in Notre Dame’s 172 year history.

“My fellow alumni around my era, so many of them feel the same way. We don't want the stadium to change because it's the embodiment of the spirit of Notre Dame,” he added. “And the students and the faculty and the staff that have all come together over all these years and we think that impacts it very deeply.”

But the university says this project is more than that.

“The idea was to make this almost central building a part of everyday campus life, make it a hub for academic and student life as well as academics,” Brown said.

“It really is a Top 20 university in a lot of different fields right now,” added Notre Dame graduate student McKay Rytting. “So I think it’s good to show how the university’s evolved into more than just a football school.”

Two things Notre Dame says it has not decided yet – whether it will add a jumbo tron and field turf in the stadium.

“The only real negative about it is, I guess it kind of breaks away from tradition,” said senior Rob Wahl. “But I think getting a jumbo tron like that is really going to help give Notre Dame a better stadium, better experience for everybody.”

But Hunt said he’s ‘totally against it.’

“Why make it like every other stadium in the country?” he asked.

The turf and jumbo tron are not part of this project at all, Brown said, adding that the Athletic Department is expected to make a decision about stadium turf soon.

As for video in the stadium – they’re exploring several options – including adding TV screens in the concourses, potentially a large video screen or two somewhere in the stadium, Brown said.

Notre Dame is also expanding broadband capabilities as part of this project. If you’ve been inside the stadium during a game, you know cell phones get jammed. That should not be a problem once the project is done, Brown added.

The spokesman also said construction will be going on during football seasons – it’s expected to last 33 months from start to finish. Brown said it will be similar to the expansion that happened in the 1990s.