Apr 3, 2007

Dining hall and other projects underway

by Erin Fitch, News Reporter
Liberty University officials are excited to announce a sweeping new line of plans and construction projects that will benefit the campus’ dining, living and recreational facilities. While some ideas are still in negotiations, such as a new amphitheater and Barnes & Noble campus bookstore, others are currently underway and due to open by this fall.

Perhaps the most exciting change that students can look forward to in the fall is the up-coming $5 million renovation of Sodexho dining facilities. Reber-Thomas Dining Hall is expecting a complete overhaul to accommodate not just the flow of traffic, but also to promote a more aesthetic element to the area. The renovations are scheduled to occur this summer.

“We are trying to accomplish a lot of things,” said Lee Beaumont, director of auxiliary services. “It’s an older facility and it needs to be renovated. Secondly, we do have issues with flow… and there’s really no need for it.”

A model of the new facility shows various types of cuisine stations offered by the dining hall surrounding—instead of opposing— niches of round and square tables. Such an arrangement cuts down on congested traffic operating back and forth throughout the facility.

In addition, a more intimate setting for diners could be created, and lessen the feel of a “military-style” meal regimen. The new design will also prevent the long lines students now wait in outside the dining hall.

“We’re really trying to upgrade the facilities to be more contemporary,” said Beaumont. “We just want to give the kids a nice place to eat.”

At Campus North, the current dining area plans to be redesigned into a food court, featuring Chick-fil-a as the anchor franchise. Sodexho has proposed a diner theme to complement the area, and the concept also promises to be more “user-friendly” for campus visitors and other guests.
Vice-Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. is involved in the plans and says there is also a free-standing restaurant for Campus East included in the idea. “LU’s capacity to feed students would be increased from 6,000 to 7,500,” he said in an interview.

Nothing heralds the advent of progress and new beginnings like seeing construction underway by Candler’s Mountain Road. At Campus North, orange mesh fencing protects a spread of matching orange traffic cones, yellow back-hoes and dump trucks.

Perhaps some students have speculated that new dorms were being built at Campus North, but Charles Spence, director of planning and construction, says that’s just a rumor, and the construction is for a 45,000 square foot classroom addition for LCA.

“It will consist of a dozen or so new classrooms, new athletic locker rooms, weight room, a new band room, some additional cafeteria space and a new wrestling/multipurpose room,” said Spence, adding that it will also be finished in time for the 2007-2008 academic year.

“While we have looked at some options to build some dorms on the property known as Campus North, there is no serious planning or consideration to build in this area,” he said. “All of the dorms for the near future are planned on the Campus East site,” he said, referring to the six dorms now being built at that side of campus.

Some recreational construction is even underway. Projects include a gazebo near the new LU monogram, special paintball fields called “speedball fields” by Campus East and an amphitheater at the Bald Spot.

The gazebo is set to open this week, and students can plan to enjoy a striking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains during a refreshing hike at the hill. The paintball fields will also serve as a fun activity for not just the current paintball club team, but also will be open to non-affiliated players.

When students drive to the current Bald Spot up Candler’s Mountain Road, they may get a great view of the campus and city, but with plans underway for a new amphitheater, the vacant land can be used for a multitude of events and services, as well.

While still in the planning stages, Falwell is positive about the idea’s development, an idea that originally began as a pavilion for the site.

“I asked L.U.’s architects last year to design a simple pavilion for the top of the mountain where students could gather and hold small events or just relax and enjoy the view,” said Falwell. The architect he spoke with, David Giles, suggested an amphitheater instead.

Falwell says the new plans submitted by Giles and a local landscape architect, Proctor Harvey, are quite impressive and can be built at a reasonable cost. More details on the endeavor are still needed, however.

If built, the amphitheater would seat 3,000 people, with 1,000 of those seats covered by a sail-type cloth, said Falwell. The facility could be used for outdoor drama, concerts and other events.
“The amphitheater would feature an unparalleled view of the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains behind the stage,” said Falwell. “It would be a spectacular facility and would truly be unique.”

A proposed shopping center is also planned for the area near the current intramural fields. Although no retailers have yet signed contracts with the commercial development, the Vice-Chancellor is positive.

“It is moving very quickly through the planning stages and is being received very well by national retailers,” said Falwell.

However, Barnes & Noble, Inc. has proposed a new campus bookstore to Liberty officials. The new addition would be 20,000 square feet and located at the intersection of University Blvd. and Ericsson Dr.

Falwell says the new bookstore would benefit not only the University, but serve as a landmark for visitors to the campus and city at its strategic location between US 29 and 460.
“The store would be very similar to the Barnes & Noble on Wards Road and it would be called ‘The Barnes & Noble at Liberty University,’ or something similar to that,” he said.

Problems with the current campus bookstore are not just its small size compared to a growing student population, but also its inconvenient location. “The existing location of the bookstore does not serve visitors well because it is hidden in DeMoss,” said Falwell.

“L.U. will operate a visitor’s center adjacent to the store that will provide information about L.U. and the entire Lynchburg area to travelers. Every car driving through Lynchburg on U.S. 29 or 460 will pass by the visitor’s center so it probably will host many more non-L.U. related visitors than any other visitors in the area,” said Falwell.

Overall, the Liberty campus is set to receive a “face-lift” as further aesthetic upgrades will help beautify the grounds and buildings.

A new fountain will grace the front of DeMoss and more grassy areas will be added to what is now a basic parking lot. Builders also plan to erect a Neo-Classical façade for the front of the Liberty University School of Law to reflect the look of the Supreme Court.

Many dorms on Main Campus have been seen being stained from a vanilla color of brick to a red shade. Falwell says all of these beautification initiatives are “an attempt to create uniformity in the school’s architecture and eliminate the industrial look of some of the older buildings.”
“We are striving for a more academic atmosphere,” he said.

With so many changes underway, and with the potential for so many visitors to see the campus, these plans promise to be exciting improvements to accommodate Liberty’s ambitious goals for the future.

Contact Erin Fitch at eefitch@liberty.edu.

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