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Club Sports department thrives out of new training complex

Liberty wrestler Wallace Canada is exhorted by sophomore heavyweight Rick Weaver in the weight room set in the center of the new Club Sports Training Complex, which houses the men’s and women’s wrestling, taekwondo, and crew and women’s gymnastics teams. (Photos by KJ Jugar)

The former Toys ‘R’ Us building in Candlers Station shopping center has been transformed into a state-of-the-art indoor training complex that now houses seven of Liberty University’s 40 Club Sports programs. The 30,000-square-foot Club Sports Training Complex (CSTC) is now home to the men’s and women’s wrestling, crew, taekwondo, and the women’s gymnastics teams.

The project was slightly pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now fully functional for Club Sports student-athletes to prepare for their upcoming seasons.

“This is a huge blessing for our wrestling, gymnastics, taekwondo, and crew teams,” Club Sports Athletics Director Kirk Handy said.

Perhaps the best quality of the training complex is its convenient location for student-athletes, situated on Candlers Mountain Road, right across the street from Liberty’s North Campus. It is not far from the LaHaye Ice Center, which serves as the main Club Sports headquarters, and the Cycling and Triathlon Center.

“The location of the new complex is so convenient and there is a lot of room for parking for all our student-athletes,” Handy said.

In the past, these Club Sports teams have practiced and trained in buildings far off campus, with the gymnastics team working out in The Plaza shopping center and the wrestling, taekwondo, and crew teams training at River Ridge Mall. The new men’s and women’s wrestling teams’ space in the CSTC contains its own weight room, locker rooms, and even saunas.

“We’re really excited about being able to bring our wrestlers back over to campus and to give them this great training spot,” Club Sports Assistant Director of Events and Facilities Chris Lowes said. “This whole side of the building is layed out perfectly for their team.”

The gymnastics section of the facility features areas for athletes to train on the floor exercise, vault, balance beam, and the uneven bars, with elevated rafters.

Liberty freshman Sophie Boone practices the floor exercise in the Lady Flames’ gymnastics room. (Photo by Joel Coleman)

“For the uneven bars, we were maybe 6-8 inches too low originally, so our design team and building crew here did an awesome job of raising the ceiling in this one area to allow for everything they need,” Lowes said.

A combined crew and taekwondo room features martial arts mats as well as 12 indoor rowing ergs for indoor workouts.

“Our crew team spends a lot of time out at Smith Mountain Lake,” Lowes said. “That’s where they keep their boats and they run the team out of, but for a major part of their season, they are indoors training. (Head) Coach (Debbie) Prowse has grown the team a lot in the last few years with new rowers and we are excited about where that team is going.”

At the center of the training complex is a 3,600-square-foot weight room that includes six brand-new Sorinex Olympic-style weight racks and other pieces of training equipment. Each of Club Sports 40 teams have access to the weight room to train under supervision from its strength & conditioning staff.

Members of the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ taekwondo team work out in a shared training facility with the crew team.

“We’ve just got a great ability now to serve a lot more students at one time,” Lowes said. “The previous gym we were using, we would have to split some of our larger teams like lacrosse to get them all through. Now, we’ve got the ability to keep those teams unified together working out at the same time, (and) for teams to be able to spread out and do stretches and plymetric work as well.”

The facility, which also has office space for Club Sports staff and coaches and an athletic training room, will help Liberty continue to establish itself as the national standard for Club Sports programs at the collegiate level.

“This is going to be so much better for Liberty Club Sports,” Handy said. “I’m so thankful and grateful to the Liberty administration for their help in making this happen.”


A video tour of the Club Sports Training Complex was featured in a Nov. 27 broadcast of the Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) weekly show “Flames Central.”

Liberty men’s wrestling Head Coach Jesse Castro (back right) demonstrates a move in the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ new wrestling room.
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