Well the day had finally come! How many times had I been asked (in an Irish accent, of course — you pick your favorite one), “Have you been to the Holy Land yet”? Now I get it! The “Holy Land” in South Bend, Indiana!! The one covered in green and gold, and traditions and yes, even holiness! It turned out to be a perfect day!
Tina is a BIG BIG BIG fan of the Irish. Last time she was here, we went to the ND store right by my house and she went wild, making sure she had her gear in time for football season to begin! Well this time, Cliff made our visit to the store a little more authentic! He made us reservations for the formal “Stadium Tour” on campus for our next adventure!
So we rented a car and set out for a morning drive to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. We didn’t realize how close we really are. No more than an hour and a half and an easy drive on the highway. We arrived before we knew it!
Our first stop was the new shopping neighborhood right across the street from the entrance to the University. Notre Dame Bookstore! Well, we went crazy!! It was a good thing that we only had 40 minutes to shop before our tour began or it could have been bad!
By the way, I found it exciting to know that even ND got in on the “Star Wars” action … which of us “Star Wars” fans wouldn’t want one of these?? Ok, well, maybe just the “force” side!!
We arrived for our tour right at noon and met our guides for an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the stadium, the locker room, the arena, and the amazing “Sports Center Hall of Fame” that holds pictures of every team from the beginning of ND time! It was so cool!
Our first stop was the Joyce Center Arena which is where they play both basketball and volleyball. Apparently the arena does not have enough seats for the “Final Four” so as of right now, we’ll never see one of those games there. The hosting arena must have at least 10,000 seats and this one is just over 9,000. If they would have only known …
On the 2nd floor of the arena, completely surrounding the inner seating, is the Sports Center Hall of Fame. This is an amazing exhibit to all of their former athletes and teams. There are so many “famous” people on those walls that went on to “celebrity-ism” … it is pretty incredible to think that at a school this small (their undergrad population is about 8,000 students — that’s it!), so many are well-known for their participation in “pop culture” after graduating from ND. And, I’m sure there are plenty whose names are not part of pop culture too … you can tell this is a special place to be part of. It’s gonna stay in your bones … even if you’re just a visitor!
Next stop: The Locker Room! We got to see the story of the “Gipper” and the window that “Rudy” crawled through and of course, the ND watermark that NO ONE … and I mean NO ONE … ever steps on! Too funny! Of course, I wanted to step on it just because they said we couldn’t … good thing it was behind a roped off area!
Each one of those wooden little sections is someone’s locker. They are all in some sort of “position” order with their names and numbers at the top.
When the players are done getting ready for their game, the next stop is the tunnel. Our guide explained that the tradition of this tunnel is that Coach Lou Holtz made all the players touch the sign as they ran down the stairs and out to the stadium. We just HAD to do that!!
It is quite an awesome feeling when you’re standing there knowing that so many of our favorite football players have done the same thing, time and time again. I’m not sure they stopped and posed for pics … but ya never know!!
Next stop: THE STADIUM!
There’s really not too much to say about the stadium … you know how much history it holds. The only real thing changing this year is that they are making the seats (the wooden bleacher seats) a little bit wider for their fans. Instead of the original 7-inch wooden plank seat, you will now get a upgraded seat made of “faux” wood! The story goes that the season ticket holders would bring their own sandpaper at the beginning of the season to smooth out their seats and remove the splinters!! HAHAH!! Not sure how they got away with that all these years but apparently they did! Our tour guides were really happy that they were “finally” doing the right thing!
We had a great time with these two devoted tour guides.
Mark & Steve were funny and knowledgeable and obviously huge fans of the school and the sports programs. If you are ever in this neighborhood, this is another “must see” place!
Because we had a little time before our next “un-official” tour, we decided to grab some lunch at a local brewery. The Evil Czech Brewery boasted some pretty good ratings and reviews and that was all we needed to re-fuel ourselves for the afternoon. Lucky for me, they had ….
Truffle Mac & Cheese! OMG, if I would have known how good this was going to be, I would have ordered a couple extra to take home for dinner for the next 3 nights! Holy Cow, they know how to knock out the mac and cheese!
I forgot to mention that at the Joyce Center Arena, they had another large bookstore … and you know what? There was stuff in there that they didn’t have at the first bookstore, and because we took the tour, they gave us an additional 15% off our purchases. Yeah, we stopped … and shopped … again!
Now, lucky for us, one of Cliff’s childhood buddies, Diego, is on staff at ND. It was so nice to meet him and see his day-to-day life at ND.
Diego was able to spend some time with us and show us a few more “behind the scenes” places like the indoor soccer and football fields (they have two — one for practice and one for games!) …
and the training rooms (each machine has its own Ipad to give individualized instruction to each and every athlete!).
He also took us to “The Gug” (pronounced like Google – just short – so like “goog”) which is where they keep their Heisman trophies. That was a BIG DRAW for the boys. It seemed like everywhere we went, there was a history lesson of some sort.
We finished our day by taking a stroll through the campus. We went to the Basilica,
the Golden Dome,
and finally, just enjoyed a perfect fall day on campus.
Before we left for the day though, we found out two more very important details. First, there was a men’s scrimmage basketball game that evening in the arena we had just toured. Are we going? You bet!!
And second, can you believe that there’s yet another bookstore on campus? And that this one is TWO stories and the biggest one they have? Well, we weren’t going to miss that one either … what if they had something the other two didn’t? We aren’t taking any chances!
By the time we finished our day, it was 10:00 p.m. Tina and I snuggled in the back seat of the car and didn’t open our eyes til we heard the words, “we’re home!” We all still felt holy and happy when we fell into our beds, resting in the history and fun, and being part of the tradition of the Fighting Irish! We had a blast! If you have never been here, this is certainly a must see for all of us. Put it on your bucket list.
Ok, talk to you tomorrow!