Notre Dame AD Sees Campus Crossroads As New Model For Facility Renovations
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said the school’s recent Campus Crossroads project represents a new model for college facility renovation that deeply intertwines athletics with the rest of the university mission. During an on-stage interview at the ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum with guest moderator and NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello, Swarbrick said the project was “a story ... about how the university and athletics can be one.” The project, the largest in Notre Dame history at more than $400M, started traditionally as a means to improve Notre Dame Stadium for the varsity football program. It quickly transformed into one where the entire university community could be served on a regular basis. “I was asking exactly the wrong question,” Swarbrick said. “The question really was, ‘How is it, in a campus growing like ours, how could you take our real estate right in the center of campus and only use it seven times a year?' So we soon moved away from gameday and into how to make the stadium more functional on the other 358 days.” The stadium now has more than 800,000 square feet of new space led by the addition of three new buildings housing academic facilities including classrooms, media and music halls, and a student center. “If athletics just builds an impressive facility for the benefit of varsity athletes and fans, we’re going to get ourselves in trouble,” he said. “It hastens the perception that we’re not in it with the rest of the university.”
MAINTAINING TRADITION: Despite the massive amount of work done to Notre Dame Stadium and the installation of a new videoboard and new luxury seating areas, tradition still reigns at the 83-year-old facility. The videoboard does not contain any sponsored material, non-game events have been limited to loading restrictions created by the entrance tunnels, and the overall ticket revenue from the lower bowl has remained the same. “We had some key principles on ticket pricing going into this, and one of them was that the revenue generated out of the lower bowl would remain the same,” Swarbrick said. “Some prices were more, some were less, but the overall revenue staying the same was an important message for our community.”
ROLE REVERSAL: The interview also featured Aiello and Swarbrick briefly switching roles, with Swarbrick asking Aiello what the greatest challenge was in his 27-year career with the league office and 38 years overall in pro football. After briefly demurring about not getting enough sleep, Aiello responded that player health and safety issues remain a paramount issue for the NFL to manage. “This speaks directly to the core of what we do, which is the game,” Aiello said.
* Swarbrick and Notre Dame spent many months studying the renovations of other iconic venues such as Lambeau Field, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field for ideas. “That proved to be very instructional.”
* The Shamrock Series, in which Notre Dame foregoes one home game per year to play in another city, took a one-year break this year with the opening of the Campus Crossroads project. It will resume beginning next year, and games against Wisconsin are slated for Lambeau Field in ’20 and Soldier Field in ’21.
* Future phases to the project could include improvements to the stadium’s upper concourse and the creation of a dedicated hospitality area for young alumni, particularly those less than a decade removed from graduation.