Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen, and Welcome to Notre Dame Stadium
Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
It is one of those special places that all sports fan aspire to visit, even if they are not fans of college football. It doesn’t matter what inspires you to go and see a game at Notre Dame Stadium; whether it is the fervent fan following, your appreciation of history, or the movie Rudy. Whatever your reason, you would be justified to go and see a Fighting Irish home game, and chances are your expectations will be exceeded.
Built in 1930, Notre Dame Stadiums seats 80,795 for football. The stadium has been the home to nine of the 11 teams that have won the National Championship for Notre Dame, including in the stadium’s inaugural season.
There’s nothing fancy about the fan experience at Notre Dame Stadium, but it may be one of the best sporting venues to see a game live.
What is FANFARE?
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Food & Beverage
Return on Investment
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food & Beverage 4
The food offerings are pretty basic inside Notre Dame Stadium. Ben's Soft Pretzels make the best soft pretzel ($5.50) you have ever eaten, and it is baked on site. Unfortunately their side dipping sauce ($1) is not very good as it needs to be warmed some so you don't just get a solidified block of cheese.
You'll find a variety of hot dogs ($6 each), including the jalapeno slaw dog, mac & cheese dog, Chicago dog, and barbeque crunch dog. These are all pretty well executed.
Souvenir-sized cups of Coca-Cola products are on hand ($5.50), along with 20-ounce bottles of Dasani water ($4), hot chocolate ($4), and coffee ($4).
Other concession items include chicken tender basket ($8), "Legendary Burger" ($9.50), "Legendary" Chicken sandwich ($9.50), fries ($4), nachos ($4.50), popcorn ($4.50), and peanuts ($5).
The classic single-bowl design of Notre Dame Stadium makes every seat a good seat as far as the view of the field. When you place your bottom down though, it's a different story. The wooden bleachers and lack of legroom makes this a venue that's not real comfortable. That complaint aside, it's still one of the greatest atmosphere in all of sports.
It begins when you arrive on the beautiful Notre Dame campus. Whether it's a warm early season game, or a cold October or November contest, you'll want to spend as much time as possible on site. There's plenty of tailgating, and everywhere you go you will see blue, gold, and green and smell grilled sausage wafting through the air.
Make sure to take a full lap around the stadium before you enter. You'll notice the bronze statues of the Notre Dame coaches who have won one or more championships during their tenure (Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz).
Be sure to get the must-have picture of the Hesburgh Library with its iconic mural of "Touchdown Jesus." You'll find an even better photo opportunity with the library in the background in the upper concourse near section 36.
Tailgate for as long as you can, but be sure to be in your seat before the Notre Dame marching band takes the field, about 22 minutes prior to kickoff. The band is the oldest college band in continuous existence, dating back to 1845. They are darn good, blasting the music that is well known to college football fans including the Notre Dame Victory March. The band also plays America the Beautiful before each home game, a tradition dating back to 1963 in honor of John F Kennedy following his assassination.
The team, with its gleaming gold helmets, take the field about eight minutes before kickoff, led by their Leprechaun mascot and male cheerleaders. You can't help but get goose bumps during the pre-game, and think of all of the legends that have run on to this field, including seven Heisman Trophy winners (Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack, Leon Hart, Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung, John Huarte, and Tim Brown).
There are numerous spots to grab a bite to eat or have a drink before the game. My recommendation is to make a day of it as much as possible. Arrive early, claim a parking spot and set up your tailgate party, even if it is only some folding chairs. If setting up a grill and all the fixings is not your thing, then try a stop at the Legends of Notre Dame, a bar and restaurant located in the parking lot, across from the Lou Holtz Gate. Their menu is very meat and potatoes, but well done cuisine, with the expected Irish-influenced entrees like corned beef and cabbage. They also have a good beer list. There's plenty of Notre Dame memorabilia on the walls to get you in the spirit, along with several large screen TVs to stay up on the other games around the country. Three hours before kickoff you should be able to get a table without waiting, but after that, securing a spot will prove to be more difficult.
If you decide not to spend time on campus, then you may want to make a visit to one of the bars along South Bend Avenue. My recommendation is Mulligan's, where they have surprisingly good food and strong Fighting Irish atmosphere.
If you like museums, you may want to stop in at the Snite Museum of Art. They have an extensive collection of religious art, including many works of the Virgin Mary, as well as rotating special exhibits. It is free to enter. The College Football Hall of Fame is also located in South Bend, and well worth a visit if you have the time.
Notre Dame fans are about as die hard as fans come. Every game since 1973 has been a sellout, and that streak would trace back to 1966 if there would not have been a game against Air Force that was rescheduled during Thanksgiving break, thus removing the student crowd from the equation.
Speaking of the students, they come out in force and will be standing and cheering for the entire game. Notre Dame utilizes a system whereby students are rewarded with better seats during their time as students. Freshmen sit in the end zone, while Seniors take up residence closer to the 35 yard line. They are close to the action, and their impact is felt.
During halftime, you'll see the vast majority of fans stay in their seats in order to watch the marching band perform. These fans love every second of the Notre Dame game day.
More than a mile from the stadium, when you exit the tollway, you'll begin to find parking which costs $20, and it only gets more expensive as you near the stadium. It is in your best interest to come up with a parking plan prior to making the drive to South Bend. Most of the campus lots open at 8am, and you would be wise to get there right on time to claim your spot, and avoid some of the pre-game traffic. Popular lots on campus include the Burke Golf Course ($40), White Field North ($25), and D2 lot ($25) which is north of the library.
Parking is certainly expensive, and there are few good options to save money. You will almost certainly be walking quite a bit, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Still, if you do this experience right, and get there early, then the chaos can be kept to a minimum. You'll even be pleasantly surprised that your ability to exit is surprisingly easy. However, with any big event like a college football game, it's important to get into the right mindset. Expect traffic to be terrible, and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.
Inside the stadium, the concourses are very wide and you should have no trouble navigating to your seat. Lines for the restroom can get very, very long at halftime, so you may want to sneak out from your seat a couple of minutes early if you need to use the facilities during the intermission.
Return on Investment 5
Because Notre Dame football is so popular, you'll be lucky to find a game where you can even buy tickets directly from the school, and when you do, it will cost you $70-$80 per ticket. The secondary market is where you will most likely find your seat, and those tickets will start anywhere between $100-$250 at the lowest per game, depending on the caliber of the opponent.
Parking is also expensive, and concessions are reasonable, but will still cost you at least $10 per person for a drink and some food. Nonetheless, this is one of those experiences that is worth every cent that you spend. For many this is a once in a lifetime event and should be cherished. Plan ahead, and make the trip to Notre Dame Stadium. You won't regret it.
I've attended many different events in many different sports at Notre Dame, and the one common denominator is staff friendliness. You will likely be greeted as many as a dozen times when you go to a Notre Dame football game with, "Welcome to Notre Dame." It shows the commitment of the university and its staff to providing a warm fan experience.
The history and tradition is undeniable at Notre Dame Stadium. From the statues of the championship coaches to the faces of greats throughout the concourse, you can't help but be reminded of the important place that this football program holds in collegiate athletics.
Notre Dame Stadium is charmingly old school. There are no logos or writing on the field, only yard lines and parallel slash marks in the end zone.
Another extra point for that goose bump factor. There are only a few select venues that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up before the game even begins.
Finally an extra point for the immensity of the tailgating scene. It's like a small city, and may be the best tailgating you'll find in the Midwest.
While a trip to see Notre Dame football will cost you a pretty penny, it is well worth your investment. Notre Dame Stadium is one of those special places that belongs on every sports fan's bucket list.