As Liberty University’s campus is getting a construction “facelift,” it continues to offer hospitality and service to groups of all ages from the community and surrounding areas in its world-class facilities.
Since the mid-1980s, the Vines Center, Williams Stadium, and other buildings have been welcoming venues for numerous events with large crowds in attendance. While serving the needs of the university, these buildings, along with others, were designed with community use in mind.
From high school graduations to Red Cross blood drives and Virginia High School League (VHSL) track meets, the events held at Liberty bring in people from all over the state.
A huge draw to the campus is the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, which features the Barrick-Falwell Lodge and a slope made of synthetic material that simulates the effects of snow and allows skiers and snowboarders to ride year-round. The Centre houses community members’ birthday parties every week as well as ski and snowboard camps and weddings in the summer.
“Our camps are drawing national exposure. It’s a unique way they get to see the entire campus from one location,” said Drew Sherwood, general manager of the Snowflex Centre.
The center also hosts ministry events for children in the city of Lynchburg.
“We could potentially get 100-150 underprivileged kids who have never had the chance to ski or snowboard and probably never will and introduce them for the first time to a solid group of students,” Sherwood said. “These (students) have a huge impact utilizing our facilities to share the message.”
“(The community) gets to come to world-class, state-of-the-art facilities,” added Ernest Carter, director of event management. “They get to experience our Christian values. It’s a ministry opportunity for us to share Christ with the community and to non-believers.”
These state-of-the-art facilities include the LaHaye Ice Center, which hosts hockey and skating clubs as well as camps throughout the year. This hosting also brings in more fans to Liberty’s club sports program, as the community makes up around 30 percent of fans at hockey games, according to Jeff Boettger, associate head coach of the men’s Division I hockey team.
The university is also responsible for bringing revenue to local businesses when it hosts such events.
“Liberty University and the events it hosts is a large reason people visit Lynchburg, and is therefore a vital element of local tourism,” said Beckie Nix, tourism director at the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce. “People who come to attend camps, concerts or sporting events do not just spend time in our city, they spend dollars. They sleep in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our retail venues. All this activity infuses new money to help grow our local economy and keep Lynchburg a vibrant, community. “
A prime example of this activity was seen in December 2011, when the university prepared for 10,000-12,000 players, families and spectators at Williams Stadium for the Group AA VHSL State Football Championships.
The campus also hosts Soccer Mania, an indoor soccer league for children and adults housed in the Thomas Indoor Soccer Center. The two indoor turf fields host hundreds of players of all ages year-round.
Liberty also hosts many events through Student Activities including concerts and the annual Block Party at the beginning of the school year, which features local vendors, games, carnival rides and giveaways.
Even Liberty’s facilities that are not on main campus are being utilized by locals. The Liberty Mountain Conference Center is open for businesses and other organizations to rent and “shares the love of Christ through the community,” according to Carter.
The community also has access to the Sports Racket, which is approximately a 15-minute drive from the main campus. The center hosts racquetball and tennis summer camps, from junior programs to adult leagues.
To expand more into the community, Josh Yeoman and Student Activities created the Liberty Mountain Trail Series in 2009 to display the mountain property that Liberty offers. In the last race, 111 participants finished the race, 60-70 percent of which was Liberty students, while the other 30-40 percent was community members.
“One of our goals as a department is to create shared experiences through events that are executed with excellence,” Yeoman said. "We believe that relationships and a strong community (are) built through shared experiences."
In 2011, Liberty opened another facility for students and the public, the Liberty Mountain Skate Park, an 8,600-square-foot facility that hosts skaters and BMX riders right next to campus at Candlers Station.
“We’re all part of this greater Lynchburg region. Colleges and universities have always played a major role in the greater community,” said Lee Beaumont, director of auxiliary services. “Colleges offer things that a community normally wouldn’t have, whether it be a large football stadium, an ice center a ski slope, gymnasiums. So how the students benefit is (from) better relations with the community.”