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Sacrifice of true fans

Staff Editorial | Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Notre Dame women’s soccer team has worked its way into the top five nationally. They’ve been to the College Cup each of the past two years and were minutes away from winning the NCAA Championship last season. The men’s team has played well recently, too.

So Randy Waldrum and Bobby Clark’s squads received a well-deserved facilities upgrade in the new Alumni Stadium, located next to the Rolfs Aquatic Center. Given their lofty achievements, it’s fitting that they should play in a first-rate stadium.

It’s too bad their fans may not be able to watch them.

Students trying to see the Irish women play top-ranked North Carolina last week were turned away because there was no room left in the stadium. Paying fans who arrived at the same time got in.

There’s no secret these days that sports are about making money. But this University has a generous endowment and the good fortune of owning a football team with a lucrative television contract that provides all the revenue they could hope for. Are those extra $5 tickets really making an impact?

Notre Dame’s athletic Web site reported that 3,007 fans watched the Irish play North Carolina. But that’s not the largest home crowd they’ve had. In 2008, 3,127 watched Notre Dame win in extra time in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. If you’re building a new stadium, why not build it big enough to accommodate all the fans?

Well, they thought of that. Waldrum told The Observer that the stadium architects provided plans for a larger stadium as well, but the smaller stadium was chosen to avoid empty stands.

“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 on Sept. 3. “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.”

Makes perfect sense. No reason to build a stadium you can’t fill. And we understand that not every game will have the kind of demand that a No. 1 North Carolina vs. then-No. 2 Notre Dame, on the Friday night of the first football weekend, will bring. But let the students in first.

Now the season-ticket holders, the loyal fans and supporters of Irish soccer, are just as important, if not more so, than the students. We’re not saying limit their access. But you want atmosphere? Students create it. They’re loud and boisterous and they know the players. You don’t create atmosphere by selling tickets to alums that are looking for something to do after the pep rally while keeping the real fans outside.

So sacrifice that extra money you make by selling the tickets and fill the stands with the students. Support the fact that students now care about sports other than football, basketball and, more recently, hockey.

One disgruntled would-be attendee shouted while waiting in line, “Their tickets cost five dollars. Ours cost $48,000!”

There’s your true fan – and your revenue.