At every Notre Dame home game, 80,795 screaming fans await the entrance of the Notre Dame football team while chanting, "Here come the Irish!" The current football players run through the same tunnel that Notre Dame legends Joe Montana, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown all ran through - and onto the field once patrolled by Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz.
Notre Dame Stadium was built in 1930 during the Knute Rockne era. It was the success of Knute's football teams that built the foundation and the lore of the stadium. The spirit that was imbued by the Rockne era - and has been sustained by seven Heisman trophy winners and dozens more All-Americans who have competed on that turf - has changed little in eight decades of football at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Osborn Engineering Company, which had designed more than 50 stadiums in the country-including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City, and facilities at Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota-was awarded the contract and excavation, began that summer.
The Stadium measures a half-mile in circumference, stands 45 feet high and features a glass-enclosed press box rising 60 feet above ground level and originally accommodating 264 writers plus facilities for photographers and radio and television broadcasters. There are more than 2,000,000 bricks in the edifice, 400 tons of steel and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete. The total cost of construction exceeded $750,000, and architecturally the Notre Dame Stadium was patterned, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan's mammoth stadium.
Though Rockne had a chance to coach in the new facility only in its initial season of use, he took a personal hand in its design. The sod from Cartier Field was transplanted into the new Stadium, but Rockne insisted on its use for football only. He kept the area between the field and the stands small to keep sideline guests, as he called them, to a minimum - and he personally supervised the parking and traffic system that basically is the same one in use today.
Notre Dame Stadium, may be the most renowned college football facility in the nation, now qualifies as one of the most up to date as well, thanks to a major addition and renovations that boosted its capacity to more than 80,000 beginning with the 1997 campaign.
The 1996 season was the final one played with the customary 59,075 fans at Notre Dame Stadium. A $50-million expansion adding over 21,000 seats was completed before the 1997 season kickoff. To upgrade on the 1997 renovation, two new scoreboards were installed in both end zones before the 2009 season that utilize the latest in LED-screen technologies.
Elements of the construction included:
-All field seating and the first three rows in the permanent stands were eliminated to improve sight lines.
-A new natural-grass field and a new drainage system were put in place.
-Two new scoreboards were erected on the north and south ends of the Stadium.
-A Jim and Marilyn Fitzgerald Family Sports and Communications Center, a new three-tier press box with views of both the field and the campus, was constructed on the west side - with seating for 330 media in the main portion of the press box, three television broadcast booths, five radio broadcast booths and an overall increase in square footage almost four times the original space.
-New landscaping created a park-like setting on the periphery of the Stadium.
-The lockerrooms for both Notre Dame and the visiting team more than doubled in size - with the Irish locker area also serving as a permanent area used by Irish players all year long for both games and practices. In addition, a new, expanded training room was constructed adjacent to the lockerroom.
-Lights were installed in each corner of the Stadium bowl and on top of the press box in time for use in the final month of the '96 season.
-Material for the project included 240,000 concrete blocks, 700,000 new bricks, 500 cubic yards of mortar, 25,000 cubic yards of cast-in-place concrete, five miles of new handrails and guardrails - and eight and a half miles of redwood seating.
-More than 3,500 sheets of drawings were used to build the project.
-Eleven new openings, for a total of 31, were cut into the old Stadium brick exterior to allow fans to connect the old and new lower concourse areas.
-The lettering at the north and south canopy as well as the interlocking ND logo at the top of the press box west face are gold laminate.
-Within the design of the entry gates, fans may notice the diagonal stripes of the end zone, hash marks and a football.
-All existing urinals were refinished as part of the renovation, and there are approximately two-and-a-half times more new women's toilets.
-Each of the approximately 44,000 old seating brackets was sandblasted and recoated with an epoxy primer.
-Glazed brick was salvaged and reused in the expanded varsity locker area.
-Notre Dame players continue to enter the field down a set of stairs past the "Play Like A Champion" sign, but stairs to the visiting locker room have been eliminated, with the top of the processional tunnel ramp now serving as the visiting team entrance.
Casteel Construction Corp. of South Bend was the general contractor for the project. Ellerbe Becket, Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., was the architect.
The project was financed primarily by the November 1994 issuance of $53 million in tax-exempt, fixed-rate bonds. The bonds were sold in 26 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 20 percent sold to retail buyers and almost 80 percent to institutional buyers.
The incremental revenues from the expansion will exceed the debt service on the bonds by $47 million over the next 30 years, allowing the project not only to pay for itself, but also to generate $47 million for academic and student life needs.
Entering 2009, the Irish have played 405 games inside Notre Dame Stadium and compiled a 302-98-5 (.752) record. Notre Dame has also played before a sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium in 205 consecutive games, entering the 2009 season. Since 1966, every Notre Dame home game has been a sellout except one - a Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force.
The Irish have played host to 62 different opponents in games at Notre Dame Stadium and no school that has made at least four trips to South Bend owns a winning record against the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium.