Ann Marie Jakubowski | Friday, April 19, 2013
Notre Dame’s Leprechaun Legion announced a revamped ticket distribution program Wednesday, and group leaders said their goal was to create a “mutually beneficial” situation for players and students invested in the game day experience.
An email sent to the student body said the plan will make all student seating general admission by section, still sorted by class year. Students will purchase ticket booklets without assigned seats specified, so the seats will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis each game.
Senior Kristen Stoutenburgh, former vice president for the Leprechaun Legion, said the group has been researching and developing this plan since last fall.
“As the Leprechaun Legion, we have been looking at making the atmosphere in each of our athletic venues better, and so we’ve done a lot of research at other schools on how they do their game-day atmosphere,” she said. “You go to other schools and their students are in the stadium, jam-packed and rowdy at least an hour before the game.
“It creates this atmosphere where there’s so much buzz even before kickoff. And there’s this player and fan interaction that you can only get when [people] are there early,” Stoutenburgh said.
Junior Matthew Cunningham, who will begin his second year as Leprechaun Legion president next fall, said the group visited the University of Oregon, the University of Alabama and Ohio State University to gauge their game-day setups and observe what worked well.
“The assigned seating system, from what we’ve seen, is very rare,” Cunningham said. “One part of that is the fact that these bigger schools with 40,000 kids just don’t have an assigned seat for everybody.”
Stoutenburgh said they didn’t approach the research with the intention of making changes, but they evaluated their findings to see what would best meet Notre Dame’s needs.
“We just wanted to observe, to see what the best practices were and whether those things would work at Notre Dame,” she said. “We did a model that fits what’s already the Notre Dame way. There are some stadiums that are completely general admissions, where class year doesn’t matter. We’re altering it a little bit to make an improvement because we didn’t see that other general admission fitting with how we are at Notre Dame.”
Cunningham said fairness is another consideration the group focused on in crafting the new system.
“One of the arguments [in favor of] the old system is that the random group seating is fair just because it’s random,” Cunningham said. “In that system, there might be people who want to be at the game early, who want to be rowdy, but the luck of the draw puts them in the top row.
“That’s not fair to people who come to the games early and want to be invested and yell and cheer. … This new system allows people who want to be there to get close to the game, and it gets rid of the chance that they might be stuck in the top row.”
The Leprechaun Legion is aware of the petition circulating in protest to the changes, Cunningham said, but they are “not considering revising the plans” in response to it.
“At Notre Dame, any change is tough. When there’s a change to the atmosphere, just like when we introduced the recorded music last year, there will be people who really don’t like it,” he said. “After time, the process kind of smoothes itself out and becomes the new norm.”
Stoutenburgh said the Legion board welcomes all comments and questions to help fans understand where the change is coming from and what the intentions are.
“It’s important to note that in any situation where there’s change, you hear a lot more from the people who are unhappy than from those who are happy,” she said. “It’s always important to look at the big picture. Even if there’s that loud, dissenting opinion, there are always positive ones that just aren’t speaking up because they don’t have a problem with it.”
Bringing fans to the stadium earlier won’t detract from the other aspects of game day, Cunningham said. Gates will open 90 minutes before kickoff, leaving time to tailgate and watch the players walk to the stadium.
“At Notre Dame, game day is more than just the football,” he said. “At these other schools, the tailgating scene was awesome, and people didn’t seem to think they had to cut their tailgates short to get to the game.”
Despite any backlash from the changes, Cunningham said no logistical change to the seating arrangements can destroy or diminish the game-day atmosphere.
“What makes Notre Dame unique is Notre Dame Stadium and Touchdown Jesus and the coaches and players that were here before, and that’s never going to change,” he said. “You’re never going to change the tradition of Notre Dame.
“There are things you can do that will make it better, to enhance it, but no one who comes to Notre Dame wants to change anything about what Notre Dame football has been founded on.”