Notre Dame Stadium, also known as the House that Rock Built, has been the home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame since it was constructed in 1930. Since then the stadium has undergone a major renovation in 1997, but to this day, it is still has remained true to its old school roots. Void of Jumbotrons, corporate sponsors, or even fancy end zone designs, Notre Dame Stadium is a model of traditional collegiate athletics and is consistently ranked as one of the most historic stadiums in college football.
The simple, yet classic design of Notre Dame Stadium makes it unique in the age of Jumbotrons plastered with corporate logos. Event the end zones of Notre Dame Stadium are simple in their design with each featuring only ten diagonal hashmarks and nothing else. The midfield of Notre Dame Stadium is also absent of any giant team logos or decorations.
The most unique feature of the stadium, however, is the view of the legendary “Touchdown Jesus” mural painted on the Notre Dame library. The renovation in 1997 blocked most of the view, but a part of the famous painting is still viewable from inside the stadium.
Original Construction and Early History
Before the Construction of Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish called the 30,000 seat Cartier Field home. Knute Rockne, who had taken Notre Dame to the top of the college football world with national titles in 1924 and 1929, was able to get a larger stadium approved by the University and in April of 1930 construction began on the larger 54,000 capacity Notre Dame Stadium.
Rockne, impressed by Michigan’s massive stadium, had Notre Dame Stadium designed based off the Big House only on a smaller scale with a construction cost of $750,000. Rockne’s fingerprints are all over the stadium as he had a say in almost every aspect of the stadium including reducing the distance between the field and the stands to reduce the number of sideline guests during games. Rockne was also heavily involved in designing the parking and traffic patterns for the original stadium.
The Osborn Engineering Company won the bid to build the stadium in 1929. Yankee Stadium, The Polo Grounds, Comisky Park, and Michigan Stadium were also designed by the Osborn Engineering Company.
Upon completion of construction in 1930, Notre Dame Stadium had a perimeter of half a mile and stood 45 feet above ground. The original press box had enough room for 264 writers as well as room for photographers and broad casters.
The first game in the stadium was held on October 4, 1930 when Southern Methodist (SMU) made the trip from Texas to Indiana to open what would be Knute Rockne’s last season at Notre Dame and his only as head coach in the new Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish won the game 20-14, the first of 10 wins in an undefeated season which netted Rockne his third national championship. A week later, the Midshipmen of Navy made their first appearance in Notre Dame Stadium for the official dedication of the new home of the Fighting Irish. Neither game, however, was seen be a capacity crowd. That distinction would occur until the following season with Southern Cal’s first contest in Notre Dame Stadium was seen by a capacity crowd of 50,731.
Expansion and Rededication
In May of 1994, the Notre Dame Board of Trustees approved a 21,000+ seat expansion and modernization of Notre Dame Stadium. The expansion, proposed to the Board a year earlier by University President Rev. Edward Malloy, increased the capacity of the stadium from 59,075 to 80,795 and began almost immediately following the completion of the 1995 season.
Twenty –one months later, the massive construction project was complete and Notre Dame Stadium went from the 15th biggest in college football to the 8th. On top of the addition of 21,000+ seats, the project included expanding the press box to include space for 330 reporters as well as adding additional space for television and radio broadcast booths. Two new scoreboards along with new field and drainage systems were also added the stadium.
Both the home and away locker-rooms were double in sized as part of the expansion while the home locker-room served as a permanent home for the Irish players for games and practices prior to the construction of “the Gug” in 2005.
Notre Dame opened its newly expanded stadium with a new coach in September of 1997 against Georgia Tech in Bob Davie’s first game as the head coach for the Irish. Notre Dame held on to a 17-10 victory over the visiting Yellow Jackets to celebrate the Rededication with a win.