Flames set for upgrade
Improvements to athletic facilities are just the start of Jeff Barber’s plans
For those who have been at Liberty University for any amount of time, it is obvious that the school is growing. This growth has helped the school burst into the national scene not only for its outstanding academics, but in the athletic realm as well.
Liberty athletes have been blessed with some of the best facilities in the country. Take the new baseball stadium as an example, as StadiumJourney.com ranked it the No. 5 in the country for gameday experience.
But, to help further the school’s mission of spreading God’s word through athletics, there are more additions and improvements on the way.
One of these additions is what will be called The Academic and Performance Center. This 65,000-square-foot building will cater to athletes’ needs. It will feature a new weight room as well as a training room that will be equipped for all the latest advancements in athletic treatment, including hydrotherapy. The building will also include a 20,000-square-foot academic center for athletes. This will be the new home of the compliance and academic coordinator staff and will include tutoring offices, a computer lab, study rooms, a lounge and more. The three-story building will also have an equipment room that will accommodate multiple sports.
“We think we can put something together that is going to be better than anything (the athletes) have,” Barber said. “We’re in the design phase now.”
Barber said this building will be located just outside of the baseball stadium.
“We’re going to take down the (soccer) scoreboard along with all those bushes and it’s going to go right in the bank and the parking lot,” Barber said.
The 18-month project is planned to break ground in August 2015.
Barber also said there are several other projects that will be built in the future. One of these is a natatorium, which will include an Olympic-size pool for the swimming and diving team. A new basketball arena and a 6,000-seat addition to the east side of Williams Stadium are also being discussed.
The addition to Williams Stadium will also include a four-story tower behind it, along with improved concessions. Barber said the university is waiting until football goes to the Football Bowl Subdivision before this addition is started.
There is discussion for a new indoor practice facility for football. This facility could accommodate multiple sports for practice and training.
Liberty kicker John Lunsford feels that this indoor facility would aid in Liberty’s mission of “training champions for Christ.”
“Champions don’t take days off,” Lunsford said. “Having world-class facilities can just enhance this mindset to be great athletes and also coaches.”
There are also discussions of an expanded hockey arena with 4,000 seats. Because hockey is a club sport, Barber said the process for the arena is more of a university-based decision.
One of the more unique additions to sports facilities is the 40-foot caboose that will be placed in right field of the Liberty Baseball stadium this year. The “Flametrain” will be painted red and have the logo placed on the side. It will also feature a patio for seating and viewing the game and will sit on train tracks.
Barber said all of these improvements are going to help bring in recruits and accommodate current student athletes with some of the nicest facilities in the country.
“I operate under the premise that (athletes) don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Barber said. “I want our recruits to come in and say ‘Wow they really care about my sport.’”
Even though there are several changes going on now and some that are destined to come, the goal of the improvements to the sports facilities is the same as it has always been.
“As we enhance facilities, that will enhance recruiting, which will enhance winning,” Barber said. “This makes our platform bigger not only to share Christ, but for people to know who Liberty is.”
BRITT is a sports reporter.