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Campus at a crossroads

| Thursday, January 30, 2014

This week, the University announced plans to add three interdisciplinary buildings to Notre Dame Stadium in an initiative titled the “Campus Crossroads Project.” We are told these facilities will integrate and centralize student life in ways the Notre Dame community has never seen before, with a new student center, a digital media studio, a RecSports facility and music, anthropology and psychology classrooms.
The additions will also boast new club-level seating, a new scoreboard and a 500-seat ballroom that could substantially improve the gameday experience. The plans for the surrounding walkways include significant improvements in landscaping, which will undoubtedly make for a more pleasant experience walking among a more-beautified section of campus. There’s no doubt in our minds that this project will live up to its current promise, enhancing both the daily lives of students and the experiences of visitors year-round.
This project meets long-present needs of the Notre Dame community and we applaud the way in which Notre Dame’s administration has paid attention to the needs of the University’s students and academic departments in addition to the needs of its sports teams. We believe these three new buildings will be physical testaments to Notre Dame’s dedication to cultivating a student’s mind, body and spirit.
Academic departments will benefit from the project. The music department was in sore need of an upgrade — its home, Crowley Hall, was built in 1883.  Although there isn’t mention of a chapel in the Campus Crossroads blueprints, the Sacred Music program will gain a “state-of-the-art” practice facility in the new buildings.
The anthropology and psychology departments, housed separately in Flanner Hall and Haggar Hall, respectively, wished to relocate to locations more accessible for off-campus visitors, so as to better conduct research with subjects who arrive from South Bend. Now, both departments will have access to the best resources a Notre Dame research facility can offer in a part of campus easily accessed.
Students will benefit from the project. All students will gain a new location to meet, study and relax. Off-campus students who typically park in the stadium lot will no longer have to circle a desolate, empty stadium during the non-football months to trek to the populated sections of campus – a new community hub will offer comforts and respite from the bitter cold.
Sports teams will benefit from the project.  A lot of the buzz has been football-focused, as fans have eaten up promises of improvements to the overall gameday experience. Will there be video boards? How about FieldTurf? The basketball teams also gain a new practice facility in what is now Rolfs Sports Recreation Center with the relocation of RecSports to the new complex.
Clearly, the announcement of this stadium expansion plan is a historic moment for Notre Dame.
There have been public concerns about the incredible price tag, or about the focus on these specific improvements to student life. While Notre Dame has made it clear funding for this project will come from donors, will this construction cannibalize donations that might otherwise have been donated to other causes or student needs?
Essentially, there are other segments of student life at Notre Dame that would benefit from increased funding (e.g. overcrowding in dorms, increased student club funding); funding they potentially could lose if donors who would have given to the University are drawn away to give specifically to the new construction project. Other needs persist among the student body and the campus community — we ask the University not to lose sight of these needs during this construction project.
We are excited about the design for this fantastic new facility, and about what it represents for the Notre Dame community. This project heralds the beginning of a new era for Notre Dame, and we are eager to watch it come ever closer.


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