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Liberty announces Olympic-sized pool addition to indoor track facility

An artist rendering's view from the inside of Liberty University's Natatorium, being constructed on Liberty Mountain.

A state-of-the-art natatorium — connected to the new indoor track complex currently under construction on Liberty Mountain — will elevate Liberty University’s NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving team and Club Sports program, while also attracting students and community members of all ages. (View gallery of renderings below.)

“It will be one of the top swimming facilities on the entire East Coast,” said Lee Beaumont, Liberty’s senior vice president of Auxiliary Services. He said it will be heavily utilized by Liberty and outside organizations.

The natatorium is already under construction and is expected to be completed by July 2017, in time to host the Commonwealth Games’ long-course swim meet.

Located beneath the LU monogram at the base of the mountain, the facility will feature an eight-lane, 50-meter pool with a bulkhead and a separate 17-foot-deep diving well with a full tower that includes 1- and 3-meter springboards and 1-, 3-, 5-, 7.5-, and 10-meter platforms.

Like the adjacent track, it will be equipped to host regional, state, and even national meets for high school, collegiate, YMCA, and USA Swimming programs, as well as offer training opportunities for professional athletes.

“This will be a fast pool,” Beaumont said. “There are fast tracks for running, and there are fast pools for swimming. The fast pool is due to all of the physics involved,” he explained. The consistent depth (9 feet) reduces turbulence underwater while an overflow gutter system drains, rather than rebounds, waves off the pool’s edges. The state-of-the-art lane dividers spin to dissipate energy created by swimmers. With the pool and diving well separate, he said, they will each be maintained at optimum temperatures. “Divers like the water a little warmer than swimmers.”

At 75,000 square feet, the natatorium will be much larger than the current LaHaye Aquatics Center pool, which will continue to be used for recreational purposes.

The new building will feature a barreled roof and plenty of glass to allow for natural lighting. It will have a seating capacity of 1,300, with 900 permanent seats in wraparound stands located along the 25-yard portion of the pool where collegiate competitions will take place — a unique feature for a swimming venue. There will also be room for an additional 400 spectators and competitors in bleachers on deck.

“It’s going to be an impressive facility,” said Jake Shellenberger, head coach of Liberty’s NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving program. “When you have a bowl seating configuration, it can make 900 people sound like 4,000.”

An exterior look of the foundation for the new Liberty University Natatorium.
The facility is currently under construction on Liberty Mountain.

The facility will have multiple uses. Liberty’s Student Activities and Intramural Sports programs will be able to host events there, and students taking kinesiology classes in swimming will be able to walk from the pool to a “wet classroom” with drains in the floor. The pool will also be available to outside organizations, from high school to community club programs, giving youth- to masters-level swimmers a chance to train, compete, and play in the new facility. It will also be used for Learn to Swim classes and training in SCUBA diving, lifeguard skills, and first responder water rescue.

At the NCAA level, Shellenberger said the natatorium will allow him to recruit more swimmers and divers with Olympic potential.

“When you have a high school athlete who has Olympic dreams, they want and need to train in the Olympic long-course 50-meter format,” he said.

Over the past seven seasons, Shellenberger has handled hundreds of inquiries from prospective men’s swimmers wondering why Liberty doesn’t offer a men’s team. This facility will allow for the addition of two new Club Sports — men’s swimming in 2017 and men’s water polo in 2018.

“I foresee men turning down scholarship offers from NCAA Division I programs to swim for the club team here,” Shellenberger said. “They’re going to have their own locker room, their own team room, they’re going to have a nicer facility than men who swim at some Division I institutions.”

The 25-yard wide pool can be divided into 20 lanes for short-course training, with an additional six lanes in the diving well, allowing teams to practice concurrently. With its proximity to the track, it will be able to host indoor triathlons as well.

The entire natatorium and indoor track complex will share a 6,554-square-foot weight room and 2,400-square-foot training room that includes a 1,000-square-foot hydro room with two plunge pools kept at 57 degrees.

There will also be a media station wired for live broadcasts of meets and a juice bar/smoothie station to provide student-athletes with protein shakes.

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