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Major Expansion Plans Announced for Athletics
|During Liberty's Friday convocation service, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., announced plans to renovate Williams Stadium and the Vines Center (pictured above).|
Photo Gallery - Expansion Plan Artwork
Liberty University Release
Further Williams Stadium Information
Further Vines Center Information
During Friday morning's University convocation service, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., announced plans for extensive stadium expansion at Williams Stadium and in the Vines Center, which will put Liberty's athletics facilities on par with those at the highest level of NCAA competition.
"I think these projects will take us to a higher level of competition," Falwell said. "It will put Liberty on the same level as other major universities in the state and in the region. I think it is amazing what we are accomplishing with God's help. The sky's the limit for Liberty."
Before a packed house inside the Vines Center, Falwell unveiled plans to increase Williams Stadium seating to 19,200 by the opening of the 2010 season, plus plans to add 3,000 seats inside the Vines Center.
Directly following the Flames final home against VMI on Nov. 7, Liberty will begin to renovate Williams Stadium, marking the first major expansion to the Flames home for football since the stadium was completed in 1989.
The first of a three-phase plan calls for the addition of 6,600 seats added to the west side of the stadium, plus a 34,000-square foot press box. The brick and glass encased, Jeffersonian-style four-story tower will house club-level seating for qualified Flames Club donors, 16 permanent luxury suites, a banquet room which can hold up to 500 people, a 1000-seat classroom and a state-of-the-art press area.
"The expansion of Williams Stadium will have a monumental effect on Liberty University and its football program," stated Jeff Barber, Liberty's Director of Athletics. "Above all else, this shows a great commitment from the University, and when you have a commitment, a lot of wonderful things can happen."
Phase One of the plan is part of a multiphase effort to boost the stadium's seating from its current capacity of 12,000 to 30,000 over the next five years. Phases Two and Three will add a new 4,000-seat middeck for the east side of the stadium and 6,400 seats in a horseshoe-shape area surrounding the end zone in the south end of the stadium.
When all three phases are complete, the stadium will have undergone an estimated $22 million in improvements. The renovated facility will also ready the stadium for the future construction of upper desks on the west and east sides of the stadium that will bring the capacity to 60,000.
"You cannot ignore the importance of facilities in recruiting. Kids always look for nicer facilities and to be a part of a team where they feel the program is an important overall part of the University," stated Liberty Head Football Coach Danny Rocco. "Above all, I think it just shows a great commitment from our University's administration to get our program to a level of national prominence."
Falwell said the Williams Stadium expansion is keeping up with Liberty's overall growth pattern. Fall enrollment for residential studies this year is expected to reach 11,900. Liberty had just over 5,000 on-campus students just 10 years ago.
"This stadium project is a natural step for Liberty in its progression from a small Bible college to a major university," added Falwell. "That was the goal from the beginning – to be for evangelical young people what Notre Dame is to the Catholics and what Brigham Young is to the Mormons. Athletics, and football in particular, was always a big part in that vision."
"Prospective student-athletes will see Liberty as a serious contender in NCAA Division I athletics," continued Falwell. "We'll be able to better recruit the top student-athletes in every sport. Improvements like this will help us convey the message that Liberty is achieving excellence in academics and in all of our facilities and programs. I think this will provide a major boost in both our athletics and academic recruiting. My father always said, ‘If it's Christian, it ought to be better.'"
In addition to the plans to renovate Williams Stadium over the next 12 months, Falwell also announced plans to expand the Vines Center from its current capacity of 8,085 to 11,000 for athletics events and 12,000 for such services as convocation and special events.
The plans for the Vines Center, which is the athletics home to Liberty's men's and women's basketball, volleyball and wrestling programs, calls for the addition of a new look with columns and a brick exterior façade for the facility, along with a 3,000-seat balcony when the project is completed in the next five to 10 years.
"The Vines Center upgrade is another step in a tremendous commitment by Liberty University to its athletics department," commented Liberty Head Men's Basketball Coach Dale Layer. "Once completed, the Vines Center will become one of the better buildings around the country for basketball."
The Vines Center, which was constructed in 1990, services Liberty in several capacities. During the academic year, the facility not only holds Flames athletics events, but also houses the University's convocation services, where the student body gathers to worship, pray and listen to popular speakers.
"This growth in an undeniable demonstration of the commitment of Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., and the leadership of Athletics Director Jeff Barber to excellence, as we continue to build ‘Champions for Christ' in the ever visible athletics arena," remarked Liberty Head Women's Basketball Coach Carey Green.
Liberty is planning a comprehensive fundraising campaign that will allow donors to name portions of the facilities at Williams Stadium and the Vines Center, including the suites, locker rooms, the playing field and the court, the Williams Stadium tower, club and the banquet room.