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ND Women’s Soccer: Team looks forward to first match in brand new stadium

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, September 3, 2009

After 16 months of watching Alumni Stadium grow brick-by-brick, No. 2 Notre Dame will finally be able to enjoy their $5.7 million state-of-the-art facility when No. 1 North Carolina comes to town Friday night.

“There is no other word to say than it’s exciting,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We are going to get on the field early Thursday night just to have a little bit of practice on it before Friday’s game.”

The team wants to test out the new field before Friday’s tilt not just because the defending champion Tar Heels are coming to town, but also because the new playing surface at Alumni Stadium will alter the flow of the game.

“We brought in some sod, a different kind of grass than was at Alumni Field, from Colorado because the weather is similar there,” Waldrum said. “[Men’s soccer coach] Bobby Clark and I both wanted a shorter grass than was at Alumni Field, a little bit quicker grass.”

The shorter grass will distinctly speed up the pace of any game played at Alumni Stadium, while an LED Daktronics scoreboard will keep track of Irish scores. Luxuries such as the scoreboard, an improved lighting system and an air-conditioned press box elevate Alumni Stadium to a rarified air in college soccer. Other programs with stadiums of similar quality include West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas, but few, if any, other college soccer programs have the same amenities the Irish will begin enjoying Friday.

“What the team is most excited about is the locker room and the lounge area we will have,” Waldum said. “We have been using the visitor’s locker room in the baseball stadium as our permanent locker room for the 10 years I’ve been here.”

The new Alumni Stadium will have a locker room with custom wood lockers for each player, as well as a lounge area with flat-screen plasma TVs for the players.

Such added comforts stem from the lead donations of former men’s soccer players Tom Crotty, class of 1980, and Rob Snyder, class of 1984.

Alumni Stadium already has permanent seating for nearly 2,500 fans, and with standing room, the stadium can hold 3,000 people. Waldrum said the architects presented an option for a bigger stadium, but the decision to build conservatively was an easy one.

“We had to decide if we make it bigger and risk having empty seats or do we build it to what would be full,” Waldrum said. “We really like that atmosphere to be full. You don’t want to build it so big that it looks half empty. That won’t create the atmosphere.”

The team has already seen the atmosphere it waits to experience. The women’s soccer team attended the men’s soccer game Tuesday night, a 5-0 victory over No. 21 Michigan.

“We couldn’t wait to see it under the lights,” Waldrum said. “It is just going to be a fantastic stadium.”

Kickoff for Friday night’s matchup with North Carolina is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.