August 14, 2014 : By Ted Allen
Students, faculty, and staff at Liberty University are now free to explore the renovated and expanded LaHaye Student Union, which reopened Thursday, Aug. 14.
With stunning views, the spacious 67,000-square-foot expansion offers increased opportunities to leave stress at the door and recharge mind and body.
Perry Tate, associate director of facilities and operations in Liberty’s Campus Recreation department, said the weight and cardio space is about three times as large as what was previously available. “We’ve based the space, the square footage, and the amount of equipment on the university goal of 20,000 students. We’re now ready to expand the university’s health and wellness space for student recreation.”
“It’s a great investment for the school to be making in the wellness of the lives of the students, faculty, and staff,” added Jamie Swyers, associate director of fitness.
The domed corner main entranceway serves as a portal for the entire LaHaye Student Union facility. Off to the right is the brand new LaHaye Event Space, featuring a stage (formerly in the Tilley Student Center) where Student Activities will host concerts, Coffeehouse tryouts, and open mic nights. Straight ahead is the renovated Tilley, featuring expanded food options and kiosk ordering stations.
By far the most magnificent addition is off to the left, the LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center, with a massive 4,000-square-foot climbing area in the opposite corner. The apex feature of that attraction is a 40-foot rock-climbing tower offering a panoramic view from the top and a bouldering area three times the size of the former one.
“We want it to be an inviting space, with light colors, a lot of glass, and a lot of sunlight,” Tate said. “We just want it to be an open, free environment to do any type of workout that you would want to do, on our expanded variety of equipment.”
Now, rather than exercising in a cramped space overlooking the basketball courts, fitness enthusiasts can be inspired by beautiful views of Liberty Mountain rising above the nearby LaHaye Ice Center as they use the cardio equipment on the second floor.
“I feel like a kid in a candy store,” said Courtney Clark, an employee in IT Development who plans to use the new facility during his lunch break to get back into powerlifting and bodybuilding. “It’s real nice. Some of this exercise equipment, I’ve never seen before. This is the best facility I’ve been in. It’s great.”
The facility’s multi-million-dollar expansion and 19,000 square feet of renovated space includes $1 million in new equipment.
“The highest quality equipment we could get, we got,” Tate said. “Downstairs is mostly weights and the upstairs loft is mostly cardio machines, treadmills, and stationary cycling and rowing machines.”
Swyers said the cardio machines are equipped with IPTV and are compatible with smartphones.
“There’s actually a LifeFitness app that can keep all of your profiles and store all of your workouts that you do on the machines. You just scan it to your smartphone,” she said. “It’s definitely great in terms of technology, to keep track of everything you’re doing.”
Besides top-of-the-line cardio and weight lifting equipment, there are special stations located on the second floor lofts for functional training with kettlebells, medicine balls, pull-up bars, and stationary cycling and rowing machines.
Starting with Thursday’s official 8 a.m. opening, students and registered faculty and staff were allowed streamlined access to the state-of-the-art facility with a swipe of their Flames ID Pass. On Monday, the first day of classes, fitness center hours will be expanded to 5 a.m.-11:30 p.m. and extended to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights before reopening Sunday at 12:30 p.m. It is closed for Convocation from 9:30-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Recreation and Fitness Center area is connected to the resurfaced Thomas Indoor Soccer Center; the Aquatics Center, which features an NCAA regulation competition pool; and seven basketball courts — two in the LaHaye Multipurpose Center — with two new locker rooms to accommodate more than twice as many students as before.
“Monday through Thursday from about 6 or 7 p.m. until close, the courts and fields are all reserved for intramurals, which is great,” Tate said, noting Liberty’s student participation in its Intramural Sports program is a priority for group exercise and team building.
The second phase of the LaHaye renovation, due to be completed this fall, will include six new exercise rooms, two new racquetball courts, and a three-lane, 187-meter track above the first three basketball courts. The exercise rooms will offer an expanded schedule of classes beyond the typical aerobic and Zumba workouts.
“There’s a mixture of strength training, TRX training, dance, high-intensity interval training, and cycle classes, with 30 (Lifecycle) spinning bikes in one room,” Swyers said.
Some faculty and staff-only classes will be offered as well. Employees can register for membership online for free access to the facility during early-bird hours from 5 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.
On Wednesday, Aug. 20, from 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m., LaHaye will host the second annual Liberty University Health Fair on the basketball court area. Students can complete a “Passport to Wellness” challenge while exploring health-oriented resources and receiving free health screenings.