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County smoking ban will affect stadium

Maureen Mullen | Friday, April 21, 2006

Notre Dame fans may breathe a little easier at Saturday’s Blue-Gold game – and not just because the Irish are guaranteed a win.

On April 10, a hotly debated St. Joseph County smoking ban went in effect in public places – restaurants, stores, malls, public places, private businesses and sports arenas – throughout the county. Notre Dame stadium will not be exempt from the ordinance, Assistant Athletics Director for Facilities Mike Danch said.

The Blue-Gold game will be the first time that the Notre Dame stadium will hold a crowd under the new “no smoking” regulations. Danch said there will be signs posted throughout the stadium that will inform spectators of the rule. During regular season games, the signs will be accompanied by recorded announcements that will play over the sound system at the stadium. Ushers will personally inform anyone unaware of the new policy.

“We have had ‘no smoking’ signs put up, we have announcements on our message board, we have prepared announcements for the games, and our ushers will be enforcing the rule,” Danch said.

Upon receiving their tickets, season ticket holders also received a booklet explaining stadium and University game day policies. Included in the booklet will be an explanation of the now-effective smoking ban, Danch said.

Any confusion concerning the ban may arise because Notre Dame has existing smoking regulations in the stadium that have been enforced. The original regulations barred smoking in the inner seating area of the stadium.

“Notre Dame previously forbid smoking in the seating areas of the stadium and permitted it in the outer and upper concourse,” said Cappy Gagnon, coordinator of stadium personnel. “It will now be forbidden everywhere inside the stadium.”

The ban will be enforced by personnel of the St. Joseph County health department, Gagnon said. Health department personnel are present at all home games, but in addition to their previous responsibility observing the handling of concession and food activities, they will now make sure Notre Dame is enforcing the ban. The health department has the ability to fine institutions if the ordinance is not adequately met.

“Like health officials monitoring a restaurant, the St. Joe County health department will make sure that we do a good job,” Gagnon said.

The majority of Notre Dame’s game day responsibilities concerning the ban remain with usher enforcement.

“In the beginning it will be a bit of an educational program since smoking has been permitted in the past,” Gagnon said. “Ushers who spot persons smoking will advise them of the ban and point out the signage on it. We will warn persons who do not follow instructions and treat them like any person who violates a stadium rule.”

Concerning spectator response, Gagnon said that the expectation is that most people will comply when first informed of the ban.

“Like we must do for cases of alcohol, ushers will escalate their response if people refuse,” Gagnon said.