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Now, Even Campus Buildings Will Revolve Around Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame football

(Image courtesy of U. of Notre Dame)

Football has long been the symbolic center of the University of Notre Dame. Now it has moved a step closer to becoming the physical center as well, as the university announced on Wednesday a plan to attach 750,000 square feet of new building space to the south, east, and west sides of Notre Dame Stadium.

The $400-million Campus Crossroads Project will include research and classroom space, academic offices, premium sports seating, and the obligatory climbing wall. It will be the university’s largest construction project ever. Plans call for three eight-story buildings to be constructed simultaneously, with groundbreaking in two years and completion within 33 months after that.

“Notre Dame wants to get all the pain over with at once, or in as short a window as possible,” said a university spokesman, Paul J. Browne.

John Affleck-Graves, Notre Dame’s executive vice president, said planners noticed about eight years ago that the campus was beginning to sprawl. “There was a conscious effort to try to pull it back together,” he said.

They drew five-minute and 10-minute walking rings around the center of the campus to determine where new structures could go while still permitting convenient pedestrian access. “What came out of that was clearly one quadrant is dominated by the stadium, and yet we use it only six times a year,” he said.

Last spring the university began a feasibility study in which 84 faculty and staff members, working with consultants, studied how the stadium might become “a year-round hub for academic and student life.”

The planning teams concluded that three buildings attached to the stadium would best serve Notre Dame’s needs:

  • The east building will house the anthropology and psychology departments, along with a digital-media center.
  • The west building will contain student-services offices, a recreation center, a career center, and a 500-person ballroom. On the topmost floors of those two buildings will be as many as 4,000 premium seats with expansive views of the gridiron, as well as a new press box.
  • The south building will house the music department and the Sacred Music at Notre Dame Program as well as a football scoreboard.

Forbes last month recognized the Fighting Irish as college football’s second most valuable team (Texas is tops), and university officials are clearly looking to capitalize on that. Revenues from the stadium seating will cover about half the cost of construction, Mr. Affleck-Graves said, and gifts—motivated by needs identified in Notre Dame’s recent strategic plan—will cover the remainder.

The university intends to keep its undergraduate student body at about 8,500 students, Mr. Affleck-Graves said, but the graduate population of about 3,000 could swell by as much as 50 percent over the next decade as Notre Dame pursues an ambitious research agenda. “Relative to other universities,” Mr. Affleck-Graves said, “we’re a little bit underresourced in terms of facilities.”

The three new buildings surrounding Notre Dame Stadium should change that.

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