President Falwell takes the plunge to celebrate Liberty Natatorium grand opening
Spacious and spectacular, the new Liberty University Natatorium was celebrated during a grand opening Friday night.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with this addition to Liberty’s campus,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell.
Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Falwell thrilled the crowd by taking a feet-first plunge off the 10-meter platform into the diving well.
“This facility is a dream come true, for the program and for Liberty University,” said Jake Shellenberger, head coach of Liberty’s NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving team. “You would be hard-pressed to find a pool, at least on the East Coast, of finer quality. I’m calling it a top-five facility in the entire country, when you look at the stats and some of the features, the bells and whistles.”
The natatorium features a nine-lane, 50-meter pool with a removable bulkhead that can divide it into two, 25-yard pools with a total of 21 lanes for short-course competition. The natatorium also has a separate 17-foot-deep diving well with a full tower that includes 1- and 3-meter springboards and 1-, 3-, 5-, 7.5- and 10-meter platforms. In addition to team locker rooms, there is a ready room for swimmers to warm up, adjacent to the starting blocks, and a 43-by-14 videoboard for instant replays and live times and team scores. Wraparound stands provide a bowl seating configuration with over 1,400 seats and a total capacity of 2,000, including swimmers and divers.
“I’m so excited for my teammates and future team members,” said senior Prudence Rooker, who opened 2018 as the first Lady Flame in program history to earn back-to-back Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Swimmer of the Week honors. “Any athlete competing in this pool has the potential to swim their fastest times because of the engineering behind it.”
Lady Flames junior diver Amy Schools agreed.
“In order for the divers to learn and succeed at the meets, to be the best, we need to train the best way possible,” she said. “With our new top-of-the-line equipment, we have many benefits that other schools do not have, so it should definitely give us an edge over the competition.”
The facility is a major upgrade from the six-lane pool located in the LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center, the Lady Flames’ home base for the previous seven-and-a-half seasons.
“It’s just incredible to think about where we’ve come from to where we are now,” Shellenberger said.
He vowed to make the university’s investment in the swimming & diving program worthwhile for the long term.
“History and legacy are important to me, and they are important to our program,” he said. “We will not let the comforts of a new facility lull us into the shadows of mediocrity.”
Two of Liberty’s newest Club Sports teams — men’s swimming & diving added this past fall and men’s water polo to debut next fall — will train and compete in the natatorium. The men’s and women’s triathlon teams will also use the pool as well as the indoor track complex for training.
NCAA student-athletes in track & field and swimming & diving now share an expansive training room between the indoor track complex and the natatorium, equipped with an underwater treadmill for hydrotherapy and a weight room.
Following Friday’s ceremony, the Lady Flames’ Swimming & Diving team hosted the first day of a tri-meet with George Mason and Virginia Military Institute.