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ND Events collaborates with campus community, local woodworking business to create new quad lodges

| Friday, February 19, 2021

On Feb. 6, South Lodge — the first of two new on-campus lounges — opened its doors to students, with North Lodge following suit soon after. Offering a heated space during the winter months, the Quad Lodges have taken the place of Library Lawn as the setting for casual social gatherings, with social distancing continuing to be enforced. Inside the tents, no eating is allowed and masks must be worn at all times. 

In addition to indoor seating, ski-lodge-themed South Lodge houses a selection of games and activities, including ping-pong, cornhole and miniature golf, as well as TVs. North Quad’s art house-style space also has board games and shuffleboard for student use.

Jennifer McGuire of ND Events was in charge of the project. She described the process of transitioning from Library Lawn to North and South Lodges in an email.

“For the sake of expediency, we agreed that the smartest decision was to utilize the Adirondack furniture, which had played a starring role on the Library and South Lawns during the fall,” McGuire said. “From there, the next question was how do we make the spaces look different while utilizing the Adirondack furniture.”

McGuire said she was given the opportunity to bring the “full range of her creativity” to the project. From there, she was able to bring together several teams of people to construct the finished product, despite the inclement weather and harsh temperatures. She said she is very proud of how it came together, and is especially happy to see students’ positive interaction with the Lodges.

“Notre Dame is truly a leader with its innovative and creative approach to challenges … and not just during the pandemic, though the Library and South Lawns solutions speak to the institution’s most-recent ‘outside-of-the-box’ approach,” McGuire said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to partner with incredibly talented and dedicated colleagues from across campus to make these safe spaces for students come to life. Simply put, the University cares deeply about its students, and the Lodges are a physical manifestation of that love and concern.”

McGuire enlisted Irish Woodworks, the company responsible for all of the wooden decorations in the Lodges; their work has previously been featured on campus in the large IRISH sign that was used for photo opportunities before Notre Dame Football’s game against Clemson last semester.

“[ND Events] reached out to us nine days before South Lodge launched,” Jeff Riney, a co-founder of Irish Woodworks, said. “Luckily, we were small enough and were able to put every one of our resources towards it.”

Riney is a Notre Dame alumnus who studied mechanical engineering and industrial design, and lived in Fisher Hall. He began Irish Woodworks as a graduate student at the University. Riney said his excitement for this particular project stemmed from the success of Library Lawn in the fall.

“Everybody just freaked out [about Library Lawn],” Riney said. “This was exactly what the students needed. They needed a place to gather, socially distanced, outside, and we were making headline news by doing that. None of the alumni have ever seen Library quad turn into that.”

He said to be a part of a similar venture was very exciting; with students having limited access to social spaces, being able to provide an outlet for them was a special experience.

“We’re so glad that the students are liking it,” Riney said. “We hope that they come back to us for more stuff, and that we can continue to work with them.”

Riney had been working with dorms around campus to create specialized merchandise for the halls.

This interactive aspect carried over into the Lodges, as the students had the option to comment what they wanted to see incorporated into the artwork — a portrait of Fr. Pete was the most popular answer. However, for Riney personally, the eight-foot Touchdown Jesus linework is the piece that steals the show. 

Though Fr. Pete was not included, Riney said that one of their pieces has already been stolen from the Lodges, attesting to how well-received their artwork is.

“Our stuff is so cool that it was stolen already,” he noted.

In making Irish Woodworks, Riney enlisted the help of his graduate school advisor, who was the director of Notre Dame’s Innovation Lab, an organization which now houses and owns part of the company.

“Irish Woodworks can take credit for opening the door, but this is a story for the Innovation Lab,” Riney said of the project. “They’re the ones who are making the products, the ones who are interfacing with ND Events, and really powering the entire company now.”

Matt Leevy, director of the IDEA Center Innovation Lab, explained the background of the company partnership. While Riney was forming the first ideas for a woodworking business, Leevy managed a separate collegiate merchandising company. The two merged last September to form Irish Woodworks.

“Irish Woodworks, which is this entrepreneurial venture, is powered by the Innovation Lab,” Riney said. 

The company follows the Lab’s motto of “Design. Prototype. Launch,” only Irish Woodworks adds another element: conceive. It was Leevy’s “appreciation for extreme creativity” that McGuire said drew her to working with Irish Woodworks. This shared spirit remained constant with the Lodges, fueling a lot of work in a very limited time frame.

“This might be one of the biggest projects I’ve personally been involved with,” Leevy said. “It was a huge challenge, but we were able to do it. It’s a very special thing.”

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