Notre Dame Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in all of sports. The history played inside its brick walls and between the white lines has few rivals, and none that can surpass it. While there have been changes and renovations over the years, fans from all over the country still describe games inside Notre Dame Stadium as bucket list events.
The unofficial name for Notre Dame Stadium is The House That Rockne Built — and for good reason. Almost everything about the stadium originated in the thoughts and plans that the legendary Irish coach had for the University. The toughest task Rockne had in getting the school to build the stadium was getting the priests that ran the school to release enough funds for construction.
At one point, Rockne even handed in his resignation as the head football coach because of his frustration with the slow process. University president Father Charles O’Donnell finally came to an agreement with Rockne, and construction was completed for the 1930 season — which tragically was the last year that Knute coached Notre Dame due to his untimely death in a plane crash in March of 1931.
For 64 years, Notre Dame Stadium stood virtually unchanged with an attendance capacity of just under 60,000. The wooden benches, the scoreboard, the grass — all of it stood like a time capsule for those who needed a dose of nostalgia. In 1994 Notre Dame began a huge expansion project that was completed for the 1997 season. Among other things, the school added more than 20,000 seats to the stadium, a bigger press box, and permanent lighting.
In 2014 Notre Dame ripped out the natural grass inside the stadium and replaced it with fieldturf. That same year, Notre Dame announced the Campus Crossroads project which made even more drastic changes to Notre Dame Stadium. The project was finished in 2018 and the changes it brought was a huge jumbotron, new luxury boxes, a new press box, three massive building attached to the stadium for multiple uses, a very narrow visitors tunnel, and other various bells and whistles. It did take a bite out of the seating capacity, however, with the stadium now holding just over 77,000 fans.
THE TAILGATING EXPERIENCE
Like most major Power Five programs, the gameday tailgating experience at Notre Dame sets the tone for the day, and is a key part of the overall gameday experience. With Notre Dame Stadium being directly on campus, the particular way fans tailgate will vary according to the parking situation.
Those that use White Field are on the most remote spot on campus and generally less than half stay on White Field to party. Those that do use White Field are generally opposing fans, RV’s, and families looking to save a few bucks on parking — and keep a better eye on the kids. Busses are available to transport fans from White Field to campus — or you can enjoy several different walking paths that are scenic.
Most of the tailgating from a traditional aspect, goes on in the parking lots outside Notre Dame Stadium, Purcell Pavilion, and Compton Family Ice Arena. Fans are greeted with party after party with tables of food and coolers full of someone’s favorite beverage. The spots are on a first come first serve basis, and many over the years have claimed certain areas as their spot for life (without the paperwork).
WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE TAILGATING AND TRADITIONS
As the saying goes... “Victory begins at midnight,” at Notre Dame. At midnight on Friday, the Midnight Drummer’s Circle begins in front of the Golden Dome. If you’re able to make a visit, most fans would tell you it’s a “can’t miss” type of event (even more so than the Friday pep rally).
Once Saturday begins and fans start loading up the parking lots around campus, there is no shortage of tradition and pilgrimage type of events to attend.
For many fans, there is a checklist of things to do while on campus, and at the top of many of those lists is a visit to the Grotto. Whether you’re a practicing Catholic or not, a visit to the Grotto is a spiritual time for reflection. Even in the middle of all of the hype and hoopla of gamedays, this is a place that feels quiet and relaxed.
While on campus there is no shortage of things to see as it seems like every square inch of campus has importance and a special name. We’re Number One Moses, Fair Catch Corby, Touchdown Jesus, the lakes, the bookstore — it’s all there for fans to take in and enjoy.
Closer to gametime, the players have Mass inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (next to the Grotto) and afterward they make the Player Walk to Notre Dame Stadium with fans lined up from God’s House to Rock’s House. The last big event before kickoff is the Notre Dame Marching Band stomping across campus and running inside the stadium to announce to the world that the Irish are coming.