SOUTH BEND, Ind. — He worked in and around Notre Dame Stadium for more than 50 years, but Spencer Grady almost didn’t know where he was during public tours of the expanded facility on Sunday.
“I could get lost here now,” joked Grady.
Grady, 84, and his wife, Lillie, of South Bend, walked through part of one of the new buildings with friends, drawn to the event out of curiosity to see what three years of construction at the stadium had yielded.
They looked around with a degree of awe.
What was most impressive?
“Everything,” Lillie Grady said.
“I can’t believe it,” said Spencer Grady, who retired years ago as assistant stadium director.
University officials offered the public on Sunday the chance to tour portions of the new buildings that now hug the stadium on three sides. The public also was invited to watch a scrimmage in the stadium, which features some new amenities, including a huge video board on the south end, attached to the new O’Neill Hall.
South Club, a private club/lounge, was open to tour in O’Neill. Floors showcasing premium seating areas were open for visitors to see in the new Duncan Student Center on the west side of the stadium and in the new Corbett Family Hall on the east side.
Long lines of people wrapped around the outside of the buildings and began streaming inside at 2 p.m., aided by a host of staff. At Duncan, crowds quickly filled the premium seating areas on the seventh and eighth floors.
Everything seemed to amaze, from the panoramic views of the football field and campus, to the private terraces, to the cushioned seats and well-appointed surroundings with fine wood and marble.
“Spectacular!” said Paul Zovinski, using the word a lot of people were using.
Zovinski, 68, who lives in Tampa, Florida, but grew up in South Bend and is a die-hard Notre Dame fan, was eager to see the new stadium. He and family members visited Duncan Student Center.
“It’s great to see the tradition keep growing and growing. The magic continues,” he said.
Gazing out at the wide, full view of the football field with the buildings and video board surrounding it, Zovinski grew a little nostalgic.
He remembered selling hotdogs as a youth outside the stadium in the 1960s when all that surrounded the bowl was “dirt,” he said.
“I love it,” said Zovinski of the new stadium, “but I’m thinking of the old days. This is professional . It’s lost its high school football charm.”
His cousin, John Zovinski of Mishawaka, said he attends about one Notre Dame football game each year and was eager to see how the stadium has changed.
“I like the idea of the jumbo Tron very much. I’m OK with change,” he said.
Andrew Petrisin graduated from Notre Dame just last year and so was going to school while the stadium construction project was ongoing.
“It’s nice that it’s finally done,” he said, touring the Duncan building with family. “I hope the building can be used for a lot of different purposes.”
Petrisin pointed to a detail that caught his eye: names of the dorms on campus, ringing a balcony in gold letters.
“I think that’s neat,” he said. “People will look for their dorm. I did.”
Notre Dame’s $400 million Campus Crossroads project, which got underway in 2014, added three buildings to the exterior of the 87-year-old football stadium, as well as premium fan seating atop those buildings. The university plans to host other events, such as concerts and professional sports teams, in the stadium, and will make the hospitality spaces available for lease for large functions.
Construction work continues on the three Campus Crossroads buildings, but the football stadium will be ready when fans arrive for the first home game Sept. 2.
Duncan Student Center is a nine-story study, fitness, career counseling and student activities building. Corbett Family Hall, also nine stories, is an anthropology, psychology and digital media building. O’Neill Hall is a six-story music building to which the video board overlooking the stadium is attached. The board measures 54.1 feet high and 95.5 feet wide.
The stadium itself looks much the same, with the addition of the towering video board and ribbon video boards. The traditional redwood benches have been replaced by steel benches covered in blue vinyl. Bench seating in the lower bowl has been renumbered, adding an average width of 2 inches of space for each fan. About 3,000 premium seats have been added, but with other seating adjustments, overall seating capacity will decrease from 80,795 to between 78,000 and 79,000.
Source: South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/2vjpWdG
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the South Bend Tribune.