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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


LYNCHBURG — Another major construction project is coming to Liberty University as the school continues to refine and expand its facilities.

At the quarterly Town and Gown meeting Wednesday between city and local college officials, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced plans to add a new arena to campus.

The 125,000-square-foot, 4,500-seat facility will be attached to the Vines Center and be used primarily for volleyball and basketball games.

Teams will use the locker rooms and practice facilities already in the Vines Center.

The university did not disclose an anticipated cost for the project, although LU said it plans to open the arena by 2020.

Falwell said the new arena will reduce the costs of staging LU's thrice-weekly convocation and other events.

"The primary need for this facility is to eliminate countless man hours and resources setting up and tearing down the stage and floor seating to accommodate both convocation and sports events. This arena will allow us to leave the convocation stage in place for much longer periods of time since sports events will not need the Vines Center except on special occasions," Trey Falwell, vice president of university operations, wrote via email.

He added that a smaller arena will accommodate events that draw 2,000 or 3,000 fans, compared to seeing an athletic contests or commencement in the larger, 9,500-seat Vines Center..

Jerry Falwell Jr. made a similar statement at Wednesday's Town and Gown meeting. "It's more exciting when you have a small arena packed out than a big arena half full," he said.

Men's basketball will continue to play in the Vines Center when attendance is expected to be above 4,000.

The arena will be built on a lot currently used for bus pickups. A new lot will shift from the current location adjacent to the Vines Center to another nearby site on University Boulevard.

"Parking for Vines will be in the existing parking garage and, as crowds grow and demand increases, a couple dorms on East Campus will be demolished to make way for a new parking garage at east end of the pedestrian tunnel under 29/460. A new highway ramp from the eastbound lane of the bypass will serve the parking deck," Jerry Falwell Jr. wrote via mail.

For Liberty University, the new arena represents a continuing buildup of its athletic facilities.

A new $29 million indoor football practice center and a $20 million natatorium opened in 2017.

Williams Stadium also is undergoing a $40 million-plus addition to bring it to 25,000 seats from 19,200 seats as Liberty prepares to join larger schools playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision later this year.

Since 2010, the university has spent nearly $1 billion on improving and building new campus facilities.

About $200 million of that has been directed toward athletics. In February, the school opened its 17-story Freedom Tower, which serves as the School of Divinity. Construction of a new School of Business is underway, with an anticipated opening this fall.

Work on the campus master plan also continues to evolve. Liberty University foresees a new student parking lot and activities space near on-campus housing and wants to extend Regents Parkway by 1,000 feet.

Those plans will go before the city of Lynchburg's Technical Review Committee for approval at its March 20 meeting in City Hall.

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March 18, 2018


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