Falwell announces possible civic center
President Jerry Falwell announced at a faculty meeting Wednesday, April 2, that Liberty University has presented a draft proposal to Lynchburg officials for a civic center.
According to the press release, the proposal could serve as an outline for an agreement between the city and Liberty.
“The proposal calls for the university to pay for its use of and to finance the construction of a new regional civic center on Candlers Mountain Road near its juncture with the U.S.460/U.S. 29 bypass,” according to the release.
Liberty would provide the land for the structure, but the city would own and maintain the facility, the proposal reports. Liberty would also be under a long-term lease for 40 – 45 events per year, which include men’s basketball and hockey as well as concerts and special events, but the Vines Center would continue to hold Convocation and smaller events.
“For Liberty, (it’s) a question of whether to invest in upgrading the Vines Center — adding seats, an upper deck, connecting Vines to the new parking deck with sheltered pedestrian walkways and adding ice for hockey games — or contributing to the new civic center in return for the rights to use it,” Falwell said.
“The cost is about the same, so we decided to give the city an opportunity to create a shared civic center.”
According to a survey taken by Regional Renaissance a couple years ago, building a civic center for Lynchburg is a top regional priority.
“Many cities the size of Lynchburg — and even smaller cities — have built civic centers without the benefit of a major anchor tenant like Liberty University,” Falwell said in the report. “This project would greatly benefit both Liberty and the local community in my view.”
In the future, the Liberty administration aspires to have its athletic teams make the jump to a larger athletic conference that is part of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, which would draw a larger audience to other sporting events, the report states. Because of this, a civic center would better serve as an athletic facility to accommodate the growing crowd for sports other than football.
“Liberty has other options in its master plans to accommodate the projected growth in its athletic programs,” Falwell said in the report. “While the amount that Liberty is willing to pay for the construction and use of the new arena is limited to an amount that is roughly equal to what it would cost Liberty to build and renovate facilities on campus to meet its needs, the university wanted to give the local community the opportunity to create this shared facility. With the Roanoke area’s two civic centers aging, the timing may be right for Lynchburg to bring home many cultural and entertainment events that local residents have historically had to drive out of town to attend.”
The report explains that the civic center would be built on the fields in front of Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) instead of the old Sears location in the River Ridge Mall. This was decided because traffic and road improvements at Sears would be much more expensive than at TRBC.
According to the press release, if the project is accepted, TRBC and possibly Liberty Christian Academy would be relocated to the property owned by Liberty at the new Odd Fellows Road interchange or in Campbell County.