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Notre Dame Stadium grapples with overcrowding as some seniors struggle to find seats

| Friday, September 27, 2019

Though student seating is guaranteed in the Notre Dame Stadium student section, some students struggled to find seats at Notre Dame’s first home football game of the 2019 season against New Mexico on Sept. 14 due to overcrowding.

In an email, the ticket office acknowledged it had received six complaints from seniors who could not get into the senior section.

“We were contacted by a handful of seniors who were unable to find a seat for the New Mexico game,” the ticket office said in an email.

Senior Nicole Mannion said she and a group of “seven to eight” friends entered the stadium roughly 10 minutes after the game started to find that the senior section was full. Mannion said she noticed available seats but was told they were reserved for alumni.

“We were able to get into the actual stadium just fine, enough into the seats and then there was a huge open section of seating. My friends and I tried to go there, and we were yelled at to move because it was saved for alumni,” Mannion said.

Senior Rongel Yee was with Mannion’s group. He described the alumni seats as being separate from the student section — on the other side of an aisle — but still relatively open, even though the game was well underway.

“We showed up late, so we expected you to get the higher-up seats,” Yee said. “There was an empty alumni space that was supposed to fill up. We were going to go there but then the ushers started yelling at us.”

Yee estimated that there were about 15-25 “seatless” people at the top of the student section. The group continued looking for seats. Eventually, Mannion and one of her friends became frustrated and left, while Yee and others continued looking for seats.

“After that we had to move to another spot which was also said to be saved for alumni. Then we were told to go to the junior section when we got to the junior section we were told it was full and we should probably just leave. They ended up continuing to search for seats when one of my friends and I decided that we were just going to leave because we were so frustrated,” she said.

After wandering for six to seven minutes of game time, Yee said he was able to find somewhere to sit as people started leaving the game.

“After the first two touchdowns it got real easy to find a spot,” he said. “I ended up in the senior section. Me and my friends [got] like a two-person spot in the middle of a a bleacher area. It was a tough find.”

After three years of attending football games, Mannion said she was irritated she wasn’t able to sit in the senior section.

“I was extremely frustrated and angry because I waited four years to sit in the senior student section, just to be told that I wasn’t allowed to,” she said. “I have paid $245 out of my own pocket. Like my parents don’t pay for my tickets, I pay for them personally. And so being told I couldn’t go to the first home game my senior season was kind of frustrating.”

Another senior, Laura Patterson — who was not with Mannion and Yee — said she and the group she was with also had difficulty finding a spot, ultimately having to split up and squeeze into the packed rows.

“We arrived at the game about five minutes after kickoff, and the student section was very clearly getting full,” Patterson said in an email. “When we entered through the tunnel into the senior section, we were told that we needed to continue walking up because there was not room at the bottom of the student section. When we got to the top, we still couldn’t find seats. We then tried to sit in a large unoccupied section to the left of the student section, but were told that the seats were reserved for alumni and that we could not sit in them. Another usher told us to keep going up the stairs to find seats, but we were stopped from climbing any higher eventually and told that there were likely not enough open seats and that we would have to squeeze in or leave. We attempted to find space, but as we were looking an usher called over a police officer to get us to move quicker. We eventually just started pushing through rows until we found some gaps and were able to sit for the game.”

The ticket office, for its part, made clear that no seats in the student section itself were reserved for alumni.

“[We] have heard the rumor regarding an area of the student section being held for an alumni group,” the ticket office said. “[We] can tell you that this is false. Our student section was only held for students with student tickets.”

The ticket office also said there are more seats in the student section than there are tickets sold. Regarding why the senior section filled up to the point it did, given that reality, the office speculated that spacing and infiltration by students in other grades was to blame.

“Like all seats in the stadium, seats in the student section are 18 inches wide. In some cases, students spread out and take up more space than 18 inches,” the office said. “Also, if students from other classes make their way into these sections, it can exacerbate the situation.”

The office encouraged students to arrive early to ensure seating. It also said it would be sending out an email to the community making clear where students from each respective grade level are supposed to be sitting.

“While we certainly encourage students to arrive early, we will work with stadium staff to ensure every student has a seat regardless of what time they arrive,” the office said. “… We will be sending out an email outlining the student sections by class as well as asking students to stay within their designated sections to ensure every student gets a seat with their appropriate class.”

Mannion — who was offered a refund for her ticket — expressed a hope that this issue will be resolved for Saturday’s game against the University of Virginia.

“I hope it’s a lot better this upcoming game, because I really don’t want to have to miss another football game of my senior season,” she said.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

Contact Tom