Tuesday afternoon the University of Notre Dame sent a press release out to the public declaring that they are exploring the opportunity to "take advantage of the central location of the football stadium to make it a hub for, among other possibilities, a student center, media center and classroom and conference center."
University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. presented an outline initiative to the Board of Trustees during their spring meeting and had this to say in the release:
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.
Zoom in on that sketch and pay attention to some of the details because there are a lot of changes in there that you might not notice at first glance. My thoughts are summed by this tweet:
In much the same way that Camden Yards looks like a baseball stadium, this rendering actually looks more like ND Stadium than ND Stadium.— oak (@oaknd1) May 2, 2013
That was my first reaction to the sketch. This looks like a really well done upgrade to the original stadium. Now, let's look at some of the proposed changes one at a time.
This looks like a major upgrade. The renovation from 1997 really spoiled the exterior and has been a huge complaint ever since. The pale gray cement is boring, lifeless, and actually takes away from the character of the stadium.
This new exterior---with brick that will likely be the same as the Purcell Pavilion and the original stadium exterior---really screams out "Notre Dame." Obviously the exterior is a lot more busy with more building areas jutting out, but if you accept that upgrades are typically going to be bigger and better (the expressed purpose of the upgrades being the need for more space) I think this proposal does it in a very classy way that keeps the character of the original stadium.
New Eastern Structure
This probably jumped out at most people as the biggest change, right? That structure looks like it will house many of the new classrooms, student center, etc. and also provide the stadium with luxury boxes.
I guess one could harp about how this addition takes away from the bowl design, but I like the balance of having another large structure opposite the press box. Also, depending on how realistic this proposal is the current press box would have to be remodeled quite heavily for it to look like that.
You'll also notice that the eastern side is attached to the Joyce Center. I'm not sure what the purpose is for that. I can think of some great ideas---it'd probably be a gold mine area for football and basketball memorabilia---but that's really asking for a ton of congestion on Saturday's before football games. It looks like there is an atrium of sorts to walk through, but still, that's not a lot of space. Extending that atrium eastward and making it twice as large would be a smart idea.
Is that what I see? If so, it'd be nice if the opposing team and referees had to enter the stadium through that tunnel and not through the traditional north tunnel.
That's our tunnel!
And just think, the fight before the 1988 Miami game never would have happened with this new tunnel.
Who knows if they'd actually go through with this but I'm on record as supporting the idea. Keep the slash marks in the end zone, that's fine, but having nothing at midfield has always looked cheap and amateur to me.
They could probably do better than this logo because shamrock's aren't blue but that is nit picky I realize.
We can't see what's happening on the other side of the tall southern structure but according to the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen there are no plans for a video board, although they haven't been ruled out either.
You can see in the north end zone that the centered scoreboard is gone in favor of two boards pushed slightly toward the corners. They look too small to support any meaningful video capabilities however.
I still maintain that if they end up putting video boards in that they should anchor them on top of the bowl in the four corners of the stadium where the current light structures reside. This proposed stadium redesign keeps that possibility alive.
These proposed plans could take 5 to 6 years to complete if approved so this isn't coming any time soon. Maybe the football team can call forth the ghost of Knute Rockne and play their home games at Soldier Field while construction is going on in South Bend. Okay that's not going to happen, I know.
If you've been paying attention to the Notre Dame Campus Plan you'll know that the University is intent on limiting campus sprawl, maintaining a pedestrian environment, and the small-campus feel that makes this place so special. In the future you can expect a lot of things in and around the stadium to change (Legends eventually turning in to an underground parking garage being a possibility) and this new stadium proposal fits in line with those long-term goals.
It hasn't always been this way---just ask the alumni from a couple decades ago---but Notre Dame Stadium is now becoming closer to the center of campus and these plans reinforce that movement.
What are your thoughts?