Tunnels under Notre Dame

Ever wonder why it looks like a random patch of grass has been plowed of snow during the winter on campus? That pathway across North Quad, or the one between Flanner and Grace? All those spots around campus are actually tunnels! Students on campus have an opportunity to take a tour of these tunnels and two sections in PW did just that. Read on for some of the interesting facts you never knew about the tunnel system under Notre Dame!


First and foremost, the tunnels under campus are HOT! Walking through the tunnels felt like a sauna, although it wouldn’t quite fit the ‘purifying’ aspect of a true sauna. These tunnels are filled with pipes and more pipes carrying water and steam throughout campus. They were never meant for students to use to go to class during winter. They maintain an average of one hundred degrees fahrenheit no matter the weather outside. Imagine walking into that with all of your winter gear on. No thank you!

On campus, our air conditioning is a bit different than most places. Usually, air is cooled and then blown out of the conditioner to provide, you guessed it, cool air. However, at ND, the plant chills large amounts of water which are pumped to campus (not through the tunnels). The chilled water is funneled through a radiator-like system and air is blown through the bars to provide cool air. Now you would think that the powerplant uses more steam and energy to heat us up during the cold South Bend winters but actually, it goes through more steam in the summer to provide cooling!

Last year, around November, there was an electrical fire inside the tunnels near the LaFortune student center with no known cause. LaFun was closed for nearly two days and smelled like smoke for weeks! They were forced to leave the doors to the building open to try and air it out so it was definitely a few cold weeks to study in LaFortune that year!

If you are a senior at our Lady’s university, going on the tunnel tour sponsored by the staff at the power plant is more beneficial than for the common student. Only during the tour during Senior week, you are allowed to sign the tunnel walls at specific points along the tour. As we walked through the tunnels, once we got our minds off the heat, it was super cool to be able to see all of the seniors who had been here before us.

A little bit of trivia to finish us off: back in the 80’s there was a man, a previous employee of the university utility staff, who really wanted to hear a Presidential speech that was occurring in the JACC. Having his handy-dandy key to the tunnels, he decided to traverse underground to the JACC so that he could listen. Little did he know, when he opened up the hatch to step into the JACC, the secret service men were waiting for him! Needless to say, he enjoyed the company of our wonderful secret service men until the President’s plane was airborne.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed these fun facts about the tunnels under Notre Dame. High fives to all of the great workers who keep water flowing for our showers and heat for those cold winter nights.
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