While the campus transformation at Liberty University is in full swing, several projects will enhance athletics and recreational activities for students when they return this fall.
Liberty’s year-round ski facility installed a separate tubing slope this week. The new run, located next to the intermediate ski slope at the center, extends 525 feet.
Tubing has been offered on the beginner’s slope since the facility opened in 2009. A separate tubing run opened last year after a new conveyor-style lift was installed next to the intermediate slope.
“The tubing run is extremely popular,” said Drew Sherwood, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre general manager. “We see three times as many people using the tubing slopes as the main slope, so this is a good addition.”
Additional safety measures, including safety rails, are being added. The new tubing run will be completed by late September.
Following Commencement, work began in earnest on a $2 million renovation at Liberty’s outdoor track. Built in 1989, it has served as home to one of the most successful programs at Liberty, with the men’s track and field team winning the Big South Conference title 17 times and the women 12. The track will be completed in time for the 2013 season, including hosting the 2013 Big South Outdoor Track and Field Championships April 18-20.
“We are very excited for the upgrade,” said head track and field coach Brant Tolsma, who will be entering his 27th season with the teams. “This track should be one of the nicest facilities in the nation, nestled in the midst of outstanding athletic facilities here at Liberty. It’s going to be jaw-droppingly beautiful and a big boost for recruiting as well as enhance our home meets.”
“The new Liberty Basketball Practice Facility will impact the entire program for many years to come,” said men’s basketball head coach Dale Layer. “The daily access to an elite facility will aid our team and players and will allow us to attract a higher caliber student-athlete in the future.”
Women’s basketball head coach Carey Green said the facility will give the teams a new “home.”
“It should help us in recruiting as they see the commitment that the university has made to the basketball program and the facilities we will have to train,” he said.
The facility should be ready for use in January. Teams will be using the New Schilling Center at Green Hall and the adjacent LaHaye Student Union basketball courts until the facility is ready.
Construction on Liberty’s new baseball stadium is continuing near Williams Stadium and Osborne Stadium.
The concrete foundation for the seating area and the new operations building is being laid. Crews are working virtually around the clock on the site. Construction is still on track to be completed in time for the first home baseball game against Penn State in February 2013. Due to the size of the project, large retaining walls have been built along the west end of the site along Regents Parkway.
The stadium will have chairback seating for 2,500 spectators, with additional seating available on grass areas down each line. The complex will also feature two suites, a club room, a spectator picnic area, and a modern media area. The stadium’s media space will accommodate up to 40 media members, with a 24-seat press box, a television booth, visitor and home radio booths, an operations suite, and storage.
The facility will have the latest turf playing surface installed, along with full-length, major-league type dugouts. Areas for concessions and ticketing will also be included. In addition, the complex will become the operations center of Liberty baseball. The program’s offices and team room will be housed in the facility and overlook the playing field. Four indoor batting tunnels and a weight room will also be included in the project.
New intramural fields are under construction off Candlers Mountain Road near U.S. 460. The complex will include two artificial turf fields, a natural grass softball field, and two sand volleyball courts.
The fields will replace the ones on Campus East (behind the lacrosse/field hockey complex), which are being turned into additional parking for the university.
“We used to have our own facility a few years ago, and it’s good to have one for intramural sports again,” said Ed Barnhouse, director of intramural sports.
The fields will include computer-controlled lights. The new turf will allow for fewer game cancellations due to weather conditions.
The sand volleyball courts will be used by the Liberty University Beach Volleyball team and by Liberty’s NCAA athletic teams for training. New beach volleyball courts were installed last spring on Campus East and have been increasingly popular for students.
Another part of the complex will be a sand training area known as The Patch, a large sand pit and training course similar to ones used by Navy SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif. Liberty’s will be the first of its kind on the East Coast.
“The training course offers your body weight as the resistance,” said Bill Gillespie, Liberty’s head strength and conditioning coordinator. “We are able to develop incredible power, strength, and speed in the weight room with our athletes but there are some athletes who have a difficult time taking the increased physical abilities from the weight room to the football field. We have found The Patch to be the missing link. We found that most athletes performed better, had fewer injuries and were better conditioned because of The Patch.”
Gillespie used a similar training course while at the University of Washington where he served as head strength and conditioning coordinator. In their first season using the course, the football team finished 11-1 and won the 2001 Rose Bowl.
“The Patch played a big role in the physical development of the football team at Washington,” Gillespie said. “I am hoping in time Liberty will climb to the top and we can honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with our success and I believe The Patch will be used through that development.”