Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 46


Notre Dame kicked off its football season Sept. 2, showcasing the $400 million stadium upgrades.
Shortly before Notre Dame kicked off its season against Temple, the sellout crowd of 77,622 shifted its attention to the new video board at the south end of Notre Dame Stadium. The big screen took fans inside the home locker room for a tight shot of Coach Brian Kelly leading the team prayer before the Fighting Irish walked down a cramped stairwell and slapped the iconic “Play Like a Champion Today” sign on their way to the field.

The prayer and the walk past the sign have been pregame rituals for decades in South Bend. But on Sept. 2, the first home football game after a massive stadium renovation, fans in attendance viewed those images live for the first time.

The board is just one piece of the $400 million facelift at the 87-year-old facility, one of the last FBS stadiums to install one.

The improvements dramatically shift what had been a neo-traditional game-day experience, where the Notre Dame marching band provided most of the entertainment for 80,000 fans sitting on wood bench seats. Now, it’s much more. The video board, the premium-seat additions, new and wider metal bench seats in the seating bowl, the rethemed concourses documenting the history of Fighting Irish football and robust connectivity upgrades bring the stadium up to par with much newer college facilities.

Patios have views of field, campus.
Improving the game-day experience for both the fans and the football program were part of the equation, but the project was critical for resolving other school needs connected to one of the most valuable pieces of campus real estate, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said.

“We had to address how to make [the stadium] more useful, given its location,” Swarbrick said.

The three new buildings attached to the stadium structure introduce premium seats for Notre Dame football, in addition to creating new classrooms, student recreational facilities, a digital media center, two music performance halls and a career services center.

Stately design, comfortable furnishings are highlights of the club areas.
The project is part stadium upgrade, part classroom additions.
The expansion touches virtually every Notre Dame student. For example, all psychology, anthropology and music education majors will attend classes at the expanded stadium after those programs moved their operations from elsewhere on campus, Swarbrick said.

Those in need of a workout can run on the indoor running track, use the climbing wall or shoot hoops on the basketball court. (The Duncan Student Center on the west side remains under construction and is set to open in January.)

Redesigned concourses recall the history of the program and the stadium.
Others may attend special events apart from football games in the 10,000-square-foot Dahnke Ballroom and the other new hospitality spaces. The Rex and Alice Martin Digital Media Center plays a key role in teaching students and providing the technology for the ACC Network, launching in 2019.

“In a world that’s become increasingly cynical about the ability for athletics and the academic mission for universities to co-exist, we see this project as a really important symbol that they can,” Swarbrick said. “We want it to be understood in those terms.”

Make no mistake, though: Football paid the freight for the project, called Campus Crossroads. The addition of club seats and loge boxes along both sidelines sold on 20-year terms financed the project, as well as the philanthropic gifts to name the individual floors tied to those premium seats.

In general, most premium inventory is sold out with the exception of some seats held back for business prospects and single-game sales. Club seats cost $3,500 to $6,000 a person annually, plus one-time capital gifts of $15,000 to $30,000.

The 68 loge boxes bookending two of the three premium levels cost $5,500 to $6,500 annually and come with tablets equipped with Bypass technology for ordering food and drink. The tablet also serves as a television with live feeds, game replays and unique viewing angles.

Apart from two suites reserved for the athletic director and school president, four corporate suites on the ninth floor of the west side are sold for single games only. The cost runs $650 to $1,000 a person depending on the game for suites with 18 to 32 fixed seats plus drink-rail seats.

Harper’s, the bar in the back of the South Club, is named for Notre Dame’s first athletic director.
“We weren’t trying to make the most lavish premium spaces,” Swarbrick said. “That wasn’t our direction here. … Some of the [outdoor patio] spaces we built [on the seventh and ninth floors] are oriented to look at campus, not necessarily the game.”

All premium seats are sold as an all-inclusive ticket package, including beer and wine. Hard liquor is exclusive to the 1842 Club and the South Club, a membership-only club.

Notre Dame Stadium

Location: South Bend, Ind.
Project cost: $400 million
Size of expansion: 800,000 square feet
Architects: HOK, Slam Collaborative, Ratio Architects, Workshop Architects, IDS, Cardosi Kiper, Champalimaud
General contractor: Barton Malow
Sales agency: Legends Global Sales
Consultants: CSL International (feasibility), ADMI (theming)
Premium seats: 2,100 club seats, 68 loge boxes, four single-game suites
Concessionaire: Levy 
Technology: ANC/Mitsubishi (video board), AmpThink (Wi-Fi), Crown Castle (distributed antenna system), Bypass (mobile point-of-sale), Musco (LED sports lighting)
Sustainability: Projected for LEED Silver certification
University spaces: 242 faculty/staff offices, 26 classroms/labs, 33 psychology research labs, 24 music practice/rehearsal rooms, two performance halls

Sources: Notre Dame, SportsBusiness Journal research

The new premium levels, most of which were built on what now consists of the seventh, eighth and ninth floors on the east and west sides, are all supported by themed lounges, such as the ninth floor’s 7 on 9 Club, named for Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners.

The exception is the 1842 Club, situated on the fifth floor on the west side, closest to the field. Named for the year the school was founded, it’s a retrofit of the old press box and the most exclusive premium space reserved for the university’s biggest donors. The lounge itself features a communal fireplace, dark wood finishes, high-end furniture and decorative rugs. An adjacent bar caters to the 163 patrons holding tickets to outdoor seats with heating coils installed underneath. They’re the only heated seats in the college space with that particular design, project officials said.

“You might get wet [on a rainy Saturday], but you will be warm,” said Missy Conboy, Notre Dame’s senior deputy athletic director.

The South Club is a “hidden gem” thanks to the design, said Beth Hunter, an associate athletic director. Built on the fourth floor in the south end, the look of the gastro pub differs from the stateliness of the other premium spaces.

The club came late in the development and has no views to the field. It’s limited to 325 people who pay a fee of $5,000 for a 10-year membership. They also pay $2,000 a year for every season ticket. In return, they get unlimited food and drink and access to the school’s postgame radio show, which takes place in the club’s center dining room. Harper’s, the sit-down bar at the back of the club, is named for Jesse Harper, who was Notre Dame’s football coach and its first athletic director in the early 20th century.

The club itself showcases the stadium’s most extensive collection of Notre Dame memorabilia and recognizes every athletic director in school history, some in their playing days competing for the Irish such as Mike Wadsworth (football) and Dick Rosenthal (basketball).

Several passages attributed to legendary coach Knute Rockne are showcased on the stadium walls as part of the upgrades, and one of his quotes on display in the South Club catches the patron’s eye: “Drink the first. Sip the second slowly. Skip the third.”

Overall, Conboy and Hunter spent months poring over Notre Dame Archives to come up with the right mix of images and historical references. On the concourses, reproductions of 70 game program covers stretching from the 1920s to the 1960s hang from the ceilings as directional signs.

The 1842 Club is reserved for the university’s biggest donors.
The game program signs, the vintage light fixtures and ironwork, plus the new limestone and brick facades consistent with other campus buildings, bring the retro look back to a stadium that lost a big chunk of its place in time after the last stadium expansion in 1997.

Twenty years ago, the concrete pillars supporting 20,000 new seats effectively wiped away the period elements of the original structure, Conboy said. In some spots, the old and new brick differed in color, but some touch-ups helped make them a match.

In all levels of the stadium, the wood benches that made up the old seating bowl have been repurposed, extending from frames holding large graphics of old ticket stubs and drink rails on the main concourse to the walls of the four corporate suites and dining booths in the South Club.

“You feel Notre Dame’s rich history much stronger in this building now than you used to,” Swarbrick said.

Mike Bonner runs a commercial-free enterprise at Notre Dame Stadium. As executive producer of live events for Notre Dame Athletics and Fighting Irish Media, Bonner is in charge of programming the new video board in the stadium’s south end zone.

Unlike other schools, Notre Dame has a no-advertising policy as part of its video productions at campus sports facilities, which includes the center-hungs at Joyce Center’s Purcell Pavilion and Compton Family Ice Arena. Add Notre Dame Stadium to the mix starting this football season.

No worries, Bonner says. Given Notre Dame’s storied history in college football, there’s plenty of content to fill the gaps from the time the stadium gates open to the final whistle.

More than football: One segment offers friendly reminders from priests at Notre Dame.
“My job is to put on a great show,” said Bonner, who has worked for the Denver Broncos and New York Yankees and was involved in six Olympic Games. “When you have zero sponsors to take care of, it’s definitely a switch. It’s a very classic, historical approach, similar to what we had with the Yankees and, somewhat, for the Broncos. Our messages are about football and the university, a celebration of Notre Dame, told in an appropriate way.”

The show starts before kickoff and includes a 30-minute piece called “The House That Rockne Built,” detailing the history of Notre Dame Stadium right up to this year’s $400 million renovation. The production is part of Notre Dame’s “Onward” series that’s broadcast on NBC.

Fighting Irish Media produced the program and all other content shown on the video board, Bonner said.

After the game starts, Bonner’s crew runs branded content such as “Irishography,” a series of short vignettes on individual players such as offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, the subject of the initial feature at Notre Dame’s home opener against Temple.

Instead of McGlinchey answering questions about what he ate for breakfast and the most embarrassing song on his playlist, the NFL prospect talks about why he chose Notre Dame, what he enjoys most about the school and his favorite on-campus spots.

“Heisman Heroes” — highlighting Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners — as well as segments honoring past and present students with military ties and featuring professors discussing the stadium’s green elements also appear on the video board.

At Notre Dame, a Catholic university, one segment sticks out compared with other college football stadiums. Notre Dame has seven Congregation of Holy Cross priests, and each one offers a friendly reminder in the messages they deliver on the video board.

Bonner said, “One of our priests catches a football on camera and says, ‘Wow, that was pretty cool, I just caught a football in front of 78,000 fans. … You know what else is pretty cool? Going to Mass.’”

Showing replays, including officials’ calls under review, has become a big part of the fan experience, and that piece of the production will be no different at Notre Dame, Bonner said. It was part of the discussion he had with coach Brian Kelly about video board operations.

Replays are shown twice, Bonner said. “The point gets across at that point. We’re not going to shy away from it. It’s at my discretion … but obviously I don’t go at that without asking questions to those that I’m serving.”

Bonner is also responsible for the music played on game days. During pregame, those decisions include making contemporary selections geared to the players to get them pumped up for the game. After kickoff, there could be other tunes that fans of all ages might enjoy.

“There are going to be times during the game where we’ll play Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, that older folks like myself might enjoy,” Bonner said. “Of course, the band is still a very large part of what we do.”

But content is king, and for Notre Dame officials, the video board is the crowning touch for modernizing the 87-year-old stadium.

“I hope people don’t ever get tired of the Knute Rockne speech because they’re going to see it an awful lot on this board,” Bonner said.

It’s game on for visitors to Petco Park.

The San Diego Padres have installed a video gaming lounge at the ballpark, with the new space also serving as a showcase for technology from corporate sponsor Sony.

The Padres built the 705-square-foot Sony Experience inside the Western Metal building and adjacent to the club’s team store. The space features high-end 4K resolution TVs, PlayStation 4 gaming consoles, wireless headphones, and “MLB: The Show,” the officially licensed MLB video game produced by Sony Interactive Entertainment in San Diego, along with other game titles.

Several other MLB clubs in recent years have installed video game fan experiences in their ballpark concourses and club seating areas. But the Padres’ effort represents one of the largest to date devoted to gaming, and combines with a recent San Diego-themed installation of MLB Advanced Media’s “Home Run Derby VR” in another part of Petco Park, the first such placement of that virtual reality game at a ballpark.

The Sony Experience has field-level views and is available year-round for parties and events.
The Sony Experience, which features field-level views, will be sold as a day-of-game suite and will be available year-round for parties and events, with typical pricing in the low-to-mid four figures per game comparable to other Padres premium suites. “Home Run Derby VR,” meanwhile, will be on the main ballpark concourse and more openly available to all fans at Padres home games, similar to how it was in July at the MLB All-Star FanFest in Miami. Padres Chief Operating Officer Erik Greupner said the moves “provide another reason for fans to come out and experience Petco Park.”

The Padres have not yet determined whether The Sony Experience will be a venue for esports competitions, though its compact size and 20-person capacity present limitations for events of that scale. The Padres, however, did host a large party last fall at Petco Park for TwitchCon, a gathering for video game streaming, which helped inform club executives on the rising prominence of gaming.

Financial costs to build out the gaming spaces were not disclosed. But in the case of The Sony Experience, the club and Sony struck a supplemental agreement from their existing relationship that dates back more than a decade and includes title sponsorship to the Padres Hall of Fame.

“Having teams from Sony Electronics and Sony Interactive Entertainment based in San Diego made this a natural partnership,” said Asad Qizilbash, Sony Interactive Entertainment America vice president of marketing.

Jamie Leece, MLBAM vice president of games and VR strategy, said the Padres’ move to install “Home Run Derby VR” at Petco Park will be soon followed by a similar setup from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then many more teams in 2018.

“We have at least 10 to 12 clubs showing significant interest in doing this, looking at it for next year,” Leece said.

The Carolina Panthers are the first NFL team to test retail lockers as a convenient way for fans to pick up merchandise ordered online.

Delaware North Sportservice, the team’s food and retail provider, has installed 23 lockers next to the team store outside Bank of America Stadium, plus 11 lockers inside the building. Apex Supply Chain Technologies, the firm producing the lockers and the technology behind them, branded the lockers in Panthers colors.

Fans ordering merchandise through the Panthers’ website are given locker pickup as an option on game day or non-game day. For those choosing the option, Sportservice delivers the order to a locker using a bar code, which the retail staff scans, sending a message to the Apex system. The system automatically opens the next available locker. After the merchandise is deposited in the locker, the Apex system sends an email to the customer with pickup instructions and a unique QR code plus a six-digit code. The customer can either scan the QR code or enter the code on the locker’s keypad.

The lockers allow fans to pick up their purchases inside or outside the stadium.
Sportservice installed the lockers in late July and more than 120 orders were picked up through the system in the first month of operation, said Steve Roznow-ski, e-commerce manager. Many orders have been picked up after the team store closes at 4 p.m., he said. There is no additional charge to use the locker delivery.

Parking is restricted around the stadium, and for a growing number of people living and working in uptown Charlotte, the lockers give them the flexibility to pick up orders after they get off work, said Todd Smoots, Sportservice’s on-site general manager.

Sportservice added the Apex lockers in Charlotte shortly before testing the same technology for food pickup at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. At the Reds’ ballpark, the system flows through MLB’s Ballpark mobile application. Branded as Ballpark Express, it went live on Sept. 4, said Chuck Thompson, Apex’s vice president of sales for real-time retail.

Separately, Aramark will use Apex lockers for in-arena retail pickup at Wells Fargo Center this fall after first testing them last season for Flyers and Sixers games in Philadelphia.