Athletics

Indoor practice facility will help raise the roof on Flames Football program

February 17, 2016

A new indoor practice facility will help bring Liberty University’s football training operations up to the level of many of the top Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs in the nation.

The domed practice field will be built in front of the Williams Football Operations Center at Williams Stadium, replacing the team’s current grass practice field. Work is expected to begin this spring and be completed by Spring 2017.

“It’s really important for football programs to have the ability to practice year-round,” said Jeff Barber, Liberty director of athletics. “In bad-weather situations, it gives us extra practice time — we won’t lose time on the field due to rain, snow, or ice. If the team is on an (outdoor) practice field and within the NCAA limit of eight miles of a lightning strike, players have to come in and wait inside the locker room (for 30 minutes). Now, they can go straight into the practice facility.”

Building plans call for a curved roof, with a 70-foot clearance, high enough to practice punts as well as punt returns and coverage. The 95,000-square-foot facility will feature a turf playing surface.

The facility is being designed to complement a future expansion to the east side of Williams Stadium. It will resemble other structures in Liberty’s $500 million campus rebuilding project, incorporating plenty of glass to allow for natural light, similar to the nearby LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center. The glass will be fully protected inside by netting and other materials.

With Flames Football’s historic 2014 season — when the team made its first trip to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs and recorded its first playoff victory — the program’s leadership is confident that Liberty is ready for competition at the FBS level.

“Jeff Barber, Head Football Coach Turner Gill, and I have been discussing the need for this facility for more than a year,” President Jerry Falwell said. “It’s time for our football program to move to the next level and to have a facility where it can practice in any weather. This will elevate the program in ways that no other facility could.”

Gill expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the Flames Football program, to Falwell and Barber on their approval of the project.

“The facility will allow our student-athletes to have continuous practice during inclement weather with the least amount of disruptive academic rescheduling,” Gill said. “The facility will also enhance the football program’s recruiting efforts by attracting prospective student-athletes from across the country. We give God the glory.”

Football won’t be the only athletics program to take advantage of the new building. Liberty student-athletes from multiple sports will have the opportunity to train year-round.

“About a dozen sports teams will be able to work out and use this facility,” Barber said. “So it’s a facility that’s going to be used a lot, and it’s going to be really important to our future.”

Flames fans can get in on the action, too, as plans call for a plaza area in front of the building to be used for tailgating and other pregame activities as well as recruiting dinners and other special occasions.

“This will be a beautiful building in an important spot on campus,” Barber said. “With its multiple uses, it will only help our programs get better.”

The new facility will be the latest in a number of campus improvements for Liberty’s NCAA athletic programs. Projects currently under construction include an indoor track & field center, expected to open in Fall 2016, and an academic and performance center set to open the following summer.

A multimillion-dollar expansion to Williams Stadium was completed in 2010, and the facility was nationally recognized as one of the top FCS facilities in the country by the Sports Network. Over the last eight years, Liberty has constructed new athletics venues for baseball, softball, field hockey, tennis, golf, and lacrosse, as well as provided state-of-the-art renovations to the playing and practice facilities for basketball, volleyball, soccer, and track & field. 

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