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ND Athletics: White unveils improvements to facilities

Ken Fowler | Friday, May 19, 2006

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White unveiled an aerial rendering of what he called a $100 million plan to renovate athletic facilities on the east side of campus Tuesday.

White did not announce a timetable for construction of the new facilities, which will complement the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and 10,000-sqaure-foot indoor golf facility slated to open by September as part of a “master plan” for athletic facilities on campus.

The blueprint White unveiled includes a 30,000 square foot addition to the south dome of the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center to be used for ticket offices and a lounge from which fans could enter basketball games, revamped hockey facilities and a redesign of the existing athletic facilities adjacent to Ivy Road.

“I think the project we’re most excited about is Joyce South,” White said in the scheduled informal meeting with the media at Greenfield’s Café that became an impromptu news conference. “It will be all state of the art. … We think this project – a twenty-five million dollar project – is a pretty substantial facelift.”

White said the basketball arena will get all new seatbacks for the arena, and the lounge will include a “stadium club” type area for spectators.

The current hockey arena in the north dome will be completely redesigned, according to the plan. White said the new facility will include approximately 4,000 full seats and a smaller lounge than the one planned for the south dome as part of a “boutique, high end” arena. He said the architectural design firm HNTB has already completed the schematics for the new hockey facilities. There will also be new offices adjacent to the hockey arena connected to the north dome.

“A stand-alone hockey arena … is thirty to forty million [dollars],” White said. “We’re looking to spend about 15 million [dollars].”

Other parts of the plan calls for softball’s facility – currently Ivy Field – to move to the southeast corner of campus, adjacent on the southern end to Frank Eck Stadium. A new track and field facility is slotted for construction just to the west of the new softball field.

Men’s and women’s soccer, which currently play home games on the easternmost edge of campus at Alumni Field, will have a new 2,000 seat stadium adjacent to the east side of the Joyce Center. The lacrosse teams will have a similar new facility just east of the new soccer field. Both stadiums will include team meeting rooms, a lounge, locker rooms and restrooms.

The football team’s practice fields will be altered as part of the plan so that all three are along the road that separates them from Guglielmino Athletics Complex. One of the three practice fields will then have artificial turf.

What’s more, the outdoor tennis facility will be moved from its current location next to the Eck Tennis Pavilion to the current site of Ivy Field. The men’s and women’s soccer practice fields will be moved adjacent to that, where Alumni Field currently stands.

White said the fundraising for the improvements is well underway, and all but one new facility have at least one benefactor in line. He said Notre Dame would not contact or negotiate with corporate sponsors for any of the building projects.

White also touched on a variety of other issues:

u White said Notre Dame is committed to playing seven home games four road games and an “off-site game” controlled by Notre Dame in the future. He said the off-site game will have ticket sales the same way a Notre Dame home game does, and that will increase the success rate of individuals who enter the ticket lottery on a yearly basis.

White also said that the pre-arranged game at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., will be one of the four “road” games, not the “off-site game.”

“In a way, that gives us access to nine games,” White said, referring to Notre Dame’s large fan base in the New York metropolitan area.

White said the “off-site” game will either be held in Jacksonville, Fla., Orlando, New Orleans or Dallas. He said Notre Dame will not negotiate with the stadiums what teams the Irish will play in those games.

He said the implementation of the off-site game will help national recruiting effors.

“What we’re looking for is to grab the headlines in the area,” White said.

White emphasized that this off-site game is just one more way Notre Dame is trying to move “further away” from conference affiliation and solidify its place as an independent.

“I think over time, we have really behaved like a wannabe conference member,” he said.

u Though he said that he wants to return to the “barnstorming” era of Knute Rockne, White said that Notre Dame does not need to make its schedule any tougher.

“We need to schedule in a way it puts us in a position to win national championships,” he said. “We could have a great football team and schedule ourselves out of a championship.”

White said that having a top-five strength of schedule is not conducive to realizing the end goal of any football season.

“The last time I checked, the most important thing here is to try to win national championships,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

u White said he was disappointed that radio-broadcasting company Westwood One will not use 26-year veteran Tony Roberts on their radio broadcasts of Irish football games next fall and that Notre Dame played no role in the decision-making process.

Westwood One chose to phase Roberts out of future broadcasts, but Roberts declined to come back after contract negotiations for what would have been Roberts’ final two years failed.

“I have great respect for Tony and am very disappointed that that outcome became a reality,” White said.

u White quelled speculation about possible scenarios in which football coach Charlie Weis would leave Notre Dame. Declining to offer specific numbers, White called the buyout option is Weis’ 10-year contract “Herculean” and said that no coach at Notre Dame has a “parachute clause” in which they can choose to leave the school for specific other institutions or professional teams.

u Adressing the men’s basketball team’s failure to reach the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons, White said he wants the program to rise to the status of “elite.”

“Who isn’t frustrated? The guy who is the most frustrated is [Irish coach] Mike [Brey],” White said. “I think Mike is a very good basketball coach and I think we’ve got a chance [to become an elite program].”

u During the meeting, associate athletic director John Heisler said Notre Dame’s football game against Air Force Nov. 11 likely will be televised only on College Sports Television Network because of Air Force’s new contract with CSTV that gives the network exclusive rights to all home games.

White said he is concerned that many fans may not have access to the game. He said Notre Dame will consider the television situation in future negotiations to make “return” games after a team plays at Notre Dame Stadium.