Student Life

Out & About

By Mitzi Bible, September 20, 2013

Hit the slopes, shoot some hoops, take a dip, saddle up the horse, and trek the trails.

Any day at Liberty University, students have these choices — and many more — when it comes to planning a break from the books. The university has continued to add a number of key facilities and programs to enhance the college experience, allowing students to enjoy their free time, build friendships, and stay in great physical shape.
Liberty University encourages students to develop in body, mind, and spirit, and several hefty investments in its Campus Recreation program are a testament to that. In the last five years, Liberty has constructed a year-round ski, snowboard, and tubing slope, added an equestrian center, an indoor soccer center, an indoor skateboarding park, an intramural complex (with turf and grass fields, lit sand volleyball courts, and a sand pit and training course), and built the multi-purpose, 25,000-square-foot Schilling Center with basketball and volleyball courts.

And there’s more on the horizon.

For the first time this year, students will be able to enjoy the great outdoors at Camp Hydaway on Liberty Mountain, get their hands dirty at the new Campus Garden, go stargazing at the university’s first high-tech observatory, and relax poolside and enjoy updated amenities at the new David’s Place clubhouse.

As resident enrollment soared past 12,000 in the last few years, administrators knew it was even more important to provide an eclectic blend of activities for all levels and interests.

“Liberty offers a large amount of activities apart from the classroom. There is such a great academic experience here, and what we’re able to offer helps supplement it so that we are approaching the students in a holistic way,” said Chris Misiano, senior director of Campus Recreation. “We appeal to a variety of students. Maybe they’re experts who want to learn more, or maybe they’re amateurs who want to get involved for the very first time. All of the activities we offer within minutes of campus create a thriving recreation program where students are able to get involved and find something that fits them right in their own backyard.”

Most recently, Misiano and his staff have been busy turning one of the university’s latest acquisitions into an adventure center of sorts.

Liberty University purchased Camp Hydaway, the 20-acre property located on Liberty Mountain about 2 miles from campus, from Thomas Road Baptist Church last year. A long-running youth camp operated by the church in the summer months, it will now serve as headquarters for the outdoor recreation program of Liberty’s Student Activities department for the rest of the year. (The church will continue to operate its camps there in the summer.)

Liberty students can now take advantage of a 6.4-acre lake with a white sand beach and giant water slide.

Fronting the lake is a newly renovated Camp Hydaway Student Center, a large building with a kitchen, eating area, and pavilion that will be available for club meetings, leadership training, and other activities. Student Activities staff will use the center for different sessions and classes, such as ATV safety and bowhunting informational meetings.

The Outfitter, a smaller building nearby that was also renovated, will have many different items available for checking out, from ATVs, mountain bikes, and kayaks, to fishing poles and camping gear.

Other upgrades at the camp include a new ropes course with 11 high ropes elements, eight low ropes elements, and a zip line.

The property will also be used for multiple Student Activities events, including the popular Liberty Mountain Trail Race Series (featuring 5K and 10K races and a half-marathon). The trails leading from Camp Hydaway allow runners to enjoy Liberty’s beautiful mountain property. The staff also hosts “fun runs” (a costume run and a Reindeer Run) and has plans to offer a new adventure race this year that will involve teams overcoming a number of obstacles and physical challenges along the way.
New bus routes will take students to the camp and other nearby recreational sites owned by Liberty throughout the year.

“Camp Hydaway offers a really unique element to our outdoor recreation program,” said Emilee Forner, a second-year graduate student who serves as an event supervisor with Student Activities. “Students can engage in more activities than before and enjoy the outdoors at a facility created just for them.”

She said the school’s prime location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a big draw for students who are eager to get out and enjoy God’s creation without traveling long distances.

“Our programs are exceptionally unique from other schools’ because we offer so many opportunities right here on campus,” Forner said. “Students get to engage in social and recreational activities that are easily accessible and frequent, right where they study, eat, and relax. Our academics and spiritual life programs are a great part of the experience of Liberty, and students benefit even more from having such versatile recreational opportunities. It’s a great way to release some energy and have fun so they CAN focus on their studies.”

Graduate student Elizabeth Karr, also a member of the Student Activities staff, said having so many places to go nearby helps students who live on campus and those who may not have vehicles to stay connected and involved.

“Students choose to participate to not only stay active during their time here, but for the opportunity to meet people who have similar interests,” she said. “I think building relationships with people through these types of activities is what truly makes the college experience so special.”

One unique program starting this fall will allow students to get up close and personal with nature — and reap some of its bounty. The new Campus Garden, located on Liberty Mountain about 3 miles from campus, is an opportunity for students to learn how to grow their own food and give back to the community.

Produce will be available in the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall and donated to local food banks. Students can fulfill their required Christian/community service hours working at the garden.

In its beginning stages, the garden includes two “high tunnels” (a type of greenhouse) and has grown tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, watermelon, pumpkin, potatoes, garlic, peas, cucumbers, carrots, and other produce. There will eventually be a fenced-in area around the high tunnels that will allow for more plantings.

Liberty’s mountaintop property, miles from the bright lights of the city, is also the perfect home for the school’s first observatory. Located on the grounds of the Equestrian Center, the approximately 1,000-square-foot facility features a 10-foot dome with a high-powered research-quality telescope equipped with a camera for exceptional photographs. The facility will also have a roll-off roof room with several smaller telescopes that have GPS technology and electronic digital compasses. Some telescopes will be available remotely, allowing users to control them from a computer.

The observatory will be used for student recreation and for academic courses, offering a fun, hands-on supplement to the classroom. It will also be open to the public on certain dates.

Perhaps one of Liberty’s most noticeable spots for recreation — viewable from many different points in the city of Lynchburg — is Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. When it opened in 2009, the slopes were the first in North America to be made of Snowflex, a specially engineered surface that creates the grip and feel of real snow for year-round enjoyment. The facility is seeing more upgrades this year, including the addition of two tubing runs, at 200 and 500 feet long.

Within eyeshot of the Snowflex Centre is another project that will push Liberty’s recreation program, as well as its NCAA athletics teams, to new levels. A multipurpose Olympic Sports Complex is under construction near U.S. 460 at the north end of East Campus, below the LU monogram. It will include an Olympic-sized 50-meter pool and diving well and an indoor track. The pool will have more lane space for recreational swimmers.

On East Campus, crews have been upgrading the new David’s Place (formerly called the East Campus Clubhouse). Students will be able to use the pool area later in the fall and earlier in the spring due to heated water and portable heaters installed around the deck. Inside, a Jamba Juice will be added, as well as new televisions, an upgraded theater, and more video games, billiards, and foosball. Another popular gathering place on campus has received recent upgrades as well. Tilley Student Center, built in 2008, now has a mezzanine level, with 250 seats added this summer. Plans also call for more food court options and a larger space for Student Activities events and concerts.

These changes to the student center are the first phases of a massive overhaul and 66,000-square-foot addition to the adjoining LaHaye Student Union, which currently houses basketball courts, a swimming pool, cardio and aerobic workout rooms, a rock wall, billiards, and pingpong. By Fall 2014, students, faculty, and staff will be treated to a new exercise and workout room that will include the latest in cardio equipment with a greater variety and quantity of offerings for all fitness levels. A glassed-in mezzanine level with exercise equipment will provide a panoramic view of Liberty Mountain. The project also includes racquetball courts, a new rock climbing wall, a raised indoor track above the basketball courts, and more multipurpose areas for group exercise classes.

In addition to working out on campus, playing one of the 20 different intramural sports, or exploring nature, Liberty also encourages students to take advantage of all that the region has to offer. And it makes sense, as Lynchburg was named one of the 100 Best Adventure Towns in the U.S. by “National Geographic Adventure.” Student Activities sponsors day and weekend trips to popular destinations.

“Being in Central Virginia has so many advantages for the outdoor recreation program here at Liberty,” Misiano said. “The land around here is gorgeous. We are just minutes from the James River, Appalachian Trail, and Peaks of Otter. We have so many beautiful areas so close to campus that students are able to take advantage of through events, trips, or just on their own. They’re able to go out into creation and really enjoy themselves.”

  • Learn more about Liberty’s recreational opportunities, including information on facilities and events, at

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