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Tom Coyne | The Associated Press | January 29, 2014

Notre Dame announces $400 million stadium expansion project

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Notre Dame's iconic football stadium will be flanked by three massive buildings under a $400 million project that will also create nearly 4,000 premium seats at the "House that Rockne Built."

The plans for the buildings were presented to the university's board of trustees during their meeting Wednesday in Rome.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university's president, called it "the most ambitious building project in the 172-year history of Notre Dame," saying more space was needed to accommodate the university's broadening research activity.

"What's exciting about this project is it brings together athletics, faculty and academics, research and a student center, so it's an integrated model," Jenkins said.

The new buildings will add about 750,000 square feet and will house a student center, the anthropology and psychology departments, and a digital media center and music and sacred music departments. The side facing Touchdown Jesus won't be changed.

The buildings on the east and west sides of the stadium will rise nine stories and include premium seating, increasing the capacity of Notre Dame Stadium from 80,795 to more than 84,000, although widening seats on the benches could cut down the number of seats. The press box will also move from the west to the east side.

The south building will be six stories high and include a hospitality area. The student center will include a recreation center and allow the university to turn the existing Rolfs Sports Recreation Center into the practice home for the men's and women's basketball teams.

Jenkins said the university will seek donations to fund the project. He said construction would begin next year at the earliest and would take nearly three years.

Jenkins said adding the research buildings to the stadium will avoid campus sprawl, and he and athletic director Jack Swarbrick said it sends a message about the importance of academics and athletics.

"It's such a powerful symbol given what's going on in college athletics right now, that you can take the stadium and say we believe in the integration of athletics into academics, and here's the living proof," Swarbrick said.

The work isn't expected to make any significant changes to the inside of the 84-year-old stadium, though Jenkins said there's still no decision on whether to add video boards for instant replay or switch to an artificial playing surface. Swarbrick said a decision on the playing surface will be made soon. New grass had to be installed three times last year.

The stadium opened in 1930, when Knute Rockne was coach, and had a capacity of 59,075 until it was expanded in 1997. Jenkins said aside from the premium seating rising above the stadium, the fans won't see much change.

The university said the club seating areas could also be used for academic events, classes, conferences and career fairs.

The new buildings will support Notre Dame's push in recent years to expand its research efforts, which include adding 11 graduate programs and plans to hire 80 new faculty.

The $400 million project follows an announcement last fall that Notre Dame would build Jenkins Hall, named after the university president, to house its Irish and Asian studies programs. Another planned new building will house the departments of economics, political science and sociology, as well as the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

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