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Notre Dame Ushers keep university's history alive through stadium tours

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- After breaking ground 89 years ago, and after a recent $400 million renovation, Notre Dame Stadium still stands tall in the middle of the university's campus today. And its history lives on thanks to the dedicated ushers who take fans on tours almost daily through the concourse, down the tunnel and to the field.

ABC 57 Morning Anchor Emily Evans had the chance to meet with one of the tour guides who helped launch the stadium tour program about six years ago.

Today, there's about ten full-time tour guides on staff. And each year, they walk thousands of fans through Notre Dame Stadium.

Fans fondly refer to it as "the House that Rockne Built."

"He is still the winningest football coach in collegiate and pro history by percentage," Notre Dame Usher and Tour Guide Mike Barnum said.

It's built with brick from Canton, Ohio. The original bleachers are made with redwood from California. And most importantly, it's a stadium saturated in a rich and vibrant history.

"These are the people who donated money to Knute Rockne and Notre Dame for a new football stadium" Notre Dame Usher and Tour Guide Donald Johnson said.

Today, about 30 or 40 times a day, these ushers lead fans through Notre Dame Stadium to share that history.

"What started it was, our stadium, was only used seven times a year, six home games, commencement. And everybody said ‘Woah. Wait a minute. Right now, we could do other things,’" Johnson said.

So, about six years ago, Johnson and a few others decided to start a stadium tour program.

"Myself and three other fellas helped start this program. So it’s been our baby growing up," Johnson said.

For about $20, you can learn about the lore behind the Irish Legends, touch the turf on the field, then snap a picture with the iconic "Play Like A Champion Today" sign outside the locker room.

"This is all what it’s about. If you just stop and think a minute about all of the names, the Heisman Trophy winners, the All-Americans that have touched this sign. And trust me, we don’t wash this off everyday," Barnum said.

These ushers say they've got the best gig in the world.

"Notre Dame has 11 national consensus championships with NCAA football, starting in 1924 to 1988. And look at the number of players on the later teams, but in 1929 there are only 11 players because we didn’t have special teams... Over here, we have our seven Heisman Trophy winners. No other school has more," Johnson said.

But they say the best part is spending time with people who have a passion for the game of football and the university that gave us Holtz, Parseghian and Rockne.

"The camaraderie with other fans is my main thing," Johnson said.

And they say they hope this stadium, steeped in tradition, will continue to open its wrought-iron gates to welcome devoted Fighting Irish fans for years to come.

If you're interested in going on a stadium tour, you can get more information at the ticket office on campus. Or you can book it online. Notre Dame offers those tours Monday through Saturday each week.

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