Moments Of The Year — No. 9

This is the fourth installment of our series counting down the 12 most memorable events of the 2012-13 academic year. With the last final exams turned in, it’s time to look back at all the highs and lows of an eventful year in South Bend. These aren’t the best times or the worst times, simply the moments we’ll remember most when looking back.

The university released a conceptual illustration to show what Notre Dame Stadium could look like in years to come.

9. Looking To The Future

May 2, 2013

Shifting the hub of Notre Dame’s 170-year-old campus is a massive undertaking, and while it will be years before the school potentially breaks ground it made a major step to set in motion those plans on May 2.

The day after the 2013 school year came to a close, Notre Dame released a conceptual photo of what the Irish football stadium could look like in the future. The athletic department announced plans to study how the university could maximize use of the stadium for everyone on campus. The idea, according to athletics director Jack Swarbrick, would be to include classrooms, meeting places and resources for digital media among renovations to the 83-year-old building originally designed by Knute Rockne.

The last updates to Notre Dame Stadium came in 1997, when the capacity grew by 21,000 seats and the school created a bit of controversy by adding a second tier of seats above the original 59,000. Tentative plans for future expansion include “premium seating options,” which appear to be in the form of luxury boxes where the current press box is located.

“It’s conceptual at this point. But the momentum and the enthusiasm is real,” Swarbrick told The Observer, Notre Dame’s student newspaper, in a recent interview. “People are excited about the concept. They recognize the various needs that are being addressed, so I’m very optimistic about it.”

Other proposed changes include a student center, a fountain located outside the southwest corner of the stadium and a tunnel that connects the east side of the stadium to the adjacent Joyce Center.

The idea, according to university president Rev. John Jenkins, is to try to expand the school’s resources without taking away from its pedestrian character. The stadium would become a more active meeting ground, rather than a large space that goes largely unused for most of the year. The initial release said the school planned to explore expansion options for several years before making any significant changes.

Along with the upgrades that would make the stadium more of a year-round facility, a stadium makeover would also likely include upgrades to the fan experience on game days. That, of course, could include the often-debated additions of a large video board and artificial turf. Those two subjects have been a topic of conversation since head coach Brian Kelly took over the program in 2010.

Notre Dame’s top brass has avoided saying anything definitive on either subject. May’s announcement is the first concrete sign issued from the university that significant change may be coming to Notre Dame Stadium. The new concept didn’t create the same amount of attention or buzz as some of the other items on our countdown, but in retrospect it might be remembered as the beginning of something big for the Irish.

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