Local businesses to help fund study

A study is currently underway in Lynchburg to see if a civic center would be economically feasible for the area.

The study is being partly funded by Liberty University, one of the major stakeholders for the Region 2000 Economic Development Council. Centra Health, Areva, Babcock and Wilcox are also contributing.

“The initial part of the study will be a feasibility study to see if there is basically enough support for a center like this,” said Lee Beaumont, director of auxiliary services said

The first phase of the study will take approximately three months.

“(The study) will show if one, can we support it and two, where would be the best place for it,” Beaumont said. “There are pros and cons to putting it on undeveloped land and there’s pros and cons to putting it downtown.”

According to Beaumont, the city has had a civic center on it’s wish list for years.

“Whether it was funding, political will or competing priorities, it just never materialized,” Beaumont said. “We’ve been seriously kicking it around for a year now.”

The study will also show the pro’s and con’s of where to place the center in the City.

“One benefit of having it in a downtown area is the economic spin off,” Beaumont said. “But then again there are a lot of challenges — it costs a lot of money ‘cause you’re demolishing buildings and there would be added traffic congestion. So there’s a lot of value putting it in undeveloped areas but then again you don’t have some of the economic spin off.”

The addition of a civic center to the area could stimulate economic growth and an added appeal to the area.

“A center could make companies more competitive when they’re looking to relocate or trying to attract quality employees,” Beaumont said. “If you’ve got kids, and you’ve got different events, it makes (Lynchburg) look more appealing to attract talent.”

Liberty could also potentially benefit from a civic center. According to Beaumont, depending on where the center is built, the school would use the space for events such as convocation, sports and concerts.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said, “I want to explore all the options before we add seating to Vines. Vines is a wonderful facility but parking is limited for basketball games. Many cities in the nation are only able to support a civic center like this by leasing to a major university as an anchor tenant. Liberty might be that anchor tenant for Lynchburg and it might be less expensive for Liberty to rent than to expand Vines as well. The study will answer all those questions.”

“Once we get that back we will analyze it and if says go forward we will look at the second step,” Beaumont said. “At any point in time it could be that the study finds there’s too many of them (civic centers) and it doesn’t make sense.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last 10 years, Lynchburg has grown 15.78 percent and is the fifth fastest growing city in Virginia.

“If you look at the latest, there are obviously a lot more people in the area that may make this thing a reality,” Beaumont said.

“Liberty is responsible for most of Lynchburg’s population growth. That growth may make the difference especially since the nearest competing civic centers in Roanoke and Salem are more than 40 years old,” said Falwell.

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