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Analyzing the new seating policy

Peter Hall | Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In the spring of 2013, the Leprechaun Legion informed the student body that there would be a new seating policy for the 2013 football season. Their general admission plan was met with mixed reviews from the students, but now that I have seen it in action, I believe it is time to analyze the new policy. I found that the policy underwhelmed on its main premise, to “allow the most passionate fans to sit closest to the field, giving our team a louder, more intimidating home field advantage.” It also created a host of other problems.
The driving force behind the new stadium seating was, as the Leprechaun Legion stated in their email to the student body on April 18, 2013, to “allow the most passionate fans to sit closest to the field, giving our team a louder, more intimidating home field advantage.”
Whether or not the “most passionate” fans were indeed closest to the field on Saturday, I could not tell the difference between the crowd vs. Temple and the crowd vs. USF in 2011 (the most recent season home opener) or the crowd vs. Purdue in 2012 (last season’s home opener).
I would call myself a passionate Notre Dame football fan, and due to a concession stand I was helping, I could not arrive early to secure a seat “close to the field.” My seat, although rather high up for the student section, was still quite excellent and in no way impacted my passion for the game and the volume of my cheers. I did notice, however, no stark changes in stadium atmosphere.
The student section, regardless of seating policy, will be loud and rowdy for the games. Changing the seating policy does not change the fact that our student population is much lower than those of other large football schools, and thus their stadiums may seem louder in comparison to our own beloved Notre Dame Stadium. Also, changing the student seating policy impacts in no way how the other 70,000 fans in the stadium cheer.
I believe the policy change did not have the desired positive effect, so now let me point out the negative side effects and unintended consequences of the policy change.
I noticed two glaring errors in this new policy in practice on Saturday. First, although students were not supposed to save seats, it still happened. This created a host of problems. Unlike the basketball stadium, seats in the football stadium are just painted numbers on a bench with no divider between seats. This makes it very hard to determine if a row is full or if it still has a couple of open seats.
Students were forced to move up until it was obvious a row had enough seats for their group, thus giving the illusion the student section was fuller than it really was.  This meant ushers were left with the task of finding open seats for students who chose to come into the game right at kickoff, creating a much higher workload for the ushers than in previous seasons with assigned seats.
I witnessed people walk into their assigned section, wander up and down trying to find a seat and eventually give up and walk out of the stadium. This is an inexcusable failure of the system. If a student paid for a ticket, he or she should be able to have a seat, not have to hunt for over five minutes to try to find a row to cram into, and maybe get frustrated enough to leave the stadium altogether.
Secondly, looking around the student section, I found sophomores that I recognized sitting on the border of the junior and senior sections. Not to point them out, but this raises another flag with the current system. Previously, if one wanted to try to sneak up and get a better seat, one did so at the risk of the owner of the seat entering the stadium, calling him or her out and forcing him or her to move.
Even with the colored ticket booklet system, it is quite easy for a student to move about in the student section, and with no reason to ask a student to see his or her booklet to see if he or she is sitting in the appropriate seat, it makes it very easy for students to cheat the system and sneak over into sections they are not supposed to be in.
I feel that the new policy fell short on its promise to “allow the most passionate fans to sit closest to the field, giving our team a louder, more intimidating home field advantage.” Even if a larger majority of the “most passionate fans” got to sit “closest to the field,” I do not believe the stadium was any louder than in seasons past.
The new policy also created problems which did not exist under the previous seating policy of assigned seats, the negative side effects of which far outweighed any marginal benefit the policy did have on stadium atmosphere. Whether or not the old policy of assigned seats is the perfect system is not the reason for this viewpoint. The point is that the current system is flawed, more so than the previous system, and needs to be addressed.

Peter Hall is a junior studying finance and applied computational mathematics. He can be reached at phall5@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.