As the spring semester draws to a close, Liberty University’s construction team is increasing its workload in an attempt to finish the various campus construction projects on time.
One of the most significant projects nearing completion is the vehicular tunnel that will provide a new route for transportation from Liberty’s campus to Wards Road. According to Charles Spence, senior vice president for Planning and Construction, the tunnel should be operational and open for traffic by Commencement, May 10.
“The headwalls on the east side of the tunnel are in place,” Spence said. “The head walls are under construction over the next week or so on the west side of the tunnel, the Wards Road side. As soon as they are in place, we can start building the actual roadway through the tunnels, hoping to have the tunnels open for traffic by graduation day.”
Another major project is the new Center for Music and the Worship Arts facility, which broke ground April 11. The new facility will be a 144,500-square-foot structure that includes a 1,600-seat auditorium and 40 teaching studios. In addition, the new building will feature two student recital halls and various lab rooms.
“When you build something like this, it makes a statement across the entire country of the commitment that Liberty University has to engaging people in the culture with arts,” Associate Dean for Center for Music and Performing Arts John Kinchen said.
Spence said the educational wing will be completed first, followed by a performance auditorium, which will be finished in January 2016.
“The most complicated piece is going to be that performance hall,” Spence said. “One of the unique things about Liberty and this particular facility is the transition of different styles of music. We’ve got to make our space very transitional.”
While the facility is being built, the School of Music will hold classes in the dormitories, which will be renovated into classrooms, according to Kinchen.
Kinchen said that while in the dormitories, the School of Music plans to hang pictures of the new building in strategic places to remind people that the transition is only temporary.
“When we walk into those (temporary) facilities, we can continue to say, ‘Hey guys, remember where we’re going,’” Kinchen said.
Some of the setbacks to Liberty’s construction were caused by the frequent snowstorms that have hit Lynchburg the past few months.
“(Until recently) the weather has been the most devastating factor that has caused any type of time delay,” Spence said. “Just every time we get to the point where we can start to work, it has just been unbelievable cold weather, unbelievable snow and unbelievable rain. It’s a bad time of year to be doing that kind of work.”
One of the projects that has been affected by the weather is the construction of the Main Campus new dorms, which are currently a few weeks behind schedule. According to Spence, the setback was anticipated.
“These setbacks will happen in wintertime when you are at that phase in the project,” he said. “We hope to see a really great spring. We are going to be working much longer days. It may very soon be going toward working 24 hours a day on the dorms to complete the task and be ready for the fall because, as (Jerry Falwell) said the other day, ‘Charles, we have no other option. When we talk about (having) 1,200 kids, there are not hotels available for them.’ So we have to have this dorm ready.”
Despite the bad weather, most of the projects remain on schedule, including the 140,000-square-foot science building, which is expected to open in January of 2015, and the expansion to the new LaHaye Student Union, which is scheduled to open for the fall 2014 semester. In the case of the new parking garage, construction is ahead of schedule and will be completed by August.