|A worker puts finishing touches on one of the private luxury suites on the fourth floor.|
This Saturday Liberty University will be hosting a party that has been nine months in the making: the grand re-opening of Williams Stadium. Construction crews are busy putting the finishing touches on the stadium’s new press tower and seating decks in preparation for what could be a record-setting crowd. Pre-game ticket sales are already more than double last year’s average home game, as fans are excited to enjoy their newly renovated home on Liberty Mountain.
And what a new home it is. The press tower is an imposing, Jeffersonian style structure that is more than 110 feet tall and can be seen from U.S. 460 and most areas on campus. This facility, plus the more than 7,000 new seats adjoining it, has placed Liberty in a new class as far college stadiums go. It is the largest in the Big South Conference, seating 19,200.
“This is one of the best FCS facilities in the country,” Athletics Director Jeff Barber said. “Every time I step into it I thank the Lord. It is more than double the second biggest stadium in the Big South Conference (Brooks Stadium, Coastal Carolina University, 9,112).”
And it will send a message not only at the conference level, but on a national and even global scale.
“I believe the newly renovated stadium changes the entire atmosphere on campus,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said. “It communicates to the world how much Liberty University has grown and creates a great first impression when newcomers visit the campus.”
Already a waiting list has formed for Liberty’s new luxury suites on the fourth floor. The suites have a kitchen area, fridge, microwave, comfortable furniture, flat-screen TV, 12 private padded balcony seats and four indoor seats from which to watch the game. One double suite sits on the 50-yard line, offering the same amenities but for a larger crowd. Individualized parking for suite holders will be just to the left of the stadium’s entrance near the new Luurtsema Center, which houses the track and field, lacrosse and soccer programs.
|On the concourse level, furniture for the Flames Club luxury suites are being unloaded.|
Flames Club members at the $2,500 level (or higher) of giving have access to the third floor Club Level, which features a balcony of more than 700 padded seats and a beautiful indoor space with open atrium, flat-screen TVs, comfortable furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows, in case fans prefer to watch the game inside. During non-game hours this space will be available as a conference room or banquet and reception area.
“It is the largest banquet facility in all of Central Virginia,” said Todd Wetmore, Liberty’s Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Communications. “We have already had inquiries about using it for wedding receptions.”
There are three balconies that extend from the back of the Club Level, providing excellent views of Liberty’s soccer field and outdoor track, with the Blue Ridge Mountains framed in the background.
“The views of Liberty Mountain, the city of Lynchburg and the Blue Ridge Mountains from the club level and the luxury suites are breathtaking,” Falwell said. The suites will be open for tours at one of the home games this year.
The premium fan experience, however, is not relegated to donors and their guests. General seating has also been expanded, and now includes an additional upper deck and access to one of the club level’s balconies. The formerly steep North Gate entrance of the stadium has been re-graded so it is now handicap accessible. The new lighted concourse (ground level) with three new concessions stands and larger restrooms will potentially eliminate excessive lines. Nacho fans need not worry about scheduling their snack breaks in between halves, as two flat-screen TV’s broadcasting the game will be located above each concession stand. In fact, it will be nearly impossible for fans to miss a minute of the game with the 55 flat-screen televisions that have been placed throughout the facility.
Members of the press will also be well cared for in the new stadium, with almost the entire fifth floor being reserved for them. A two-tiered media room sits in the center, providing excellent vantage points from the 50-yard line for 32 media members. A separate covered camera deck extends in front of the space, so television crews can film the game from above. The media room is surrounded by private booths for the Flames football staff, visiting football staff, radio personnel from the Flames Sports Network and security. Two deluxe suites, each with a conference room, reside on each end of the floor and are reserved for the athletic director and the chancellor.
The new seating and football tower have not only expanded the fan experience, they have become impressive campus markers and symbols of the direction Liberty hopes to take all Flames sports programs.
“It is already helping to recruit the best football players and I believe it will be the catalyst that will take Liberty Flames football to the FBS (NCAA Division I-A) in years to come,” Falwell said.
The completion of this project will mark the end of phase I of Liberty’s five-year stadium expansion project.
“It’s not just a step forward, it’s a leap,” Barber said. “We will build the next stage when we need it. Hopefully we will pack out all the seats this year.”
Kick-off against Savannah State is slated for 7 p.m. The grand stadium re-opening will conclude with a major fireworks show. To purchase tickets to the game, head to the Flames Ticket Office website, or call (434) 582-SEAT (7328).
As crews vacuum up the last bits of construction dust and wipe down the new seats, other last-minute game preparations are also under way. Liberty’s mascot, Sparky the eagle, will be arriving back on campus after weeks of intensive physical and mental training. Sparky plans to unveil his new fit shape when he leads the football team onto the field at Saturday’s game. Check out videos of Sparky’s transformation process here.