|The Liberty Lacrosse complex, with three courts and a pavilion, opened its doors last spring on the East Campus.|
Campus facility upgrades have transformed Liberty University dramatically over the past decade, and many ongoing projects continue to lay the foundation for the future growth and functionality of the world’s largest Christian university. .
Over the past five years, Kirk Handy, Senior Director of Liberty Campus Recreation, who is also the ACHA’s Division I men’s hockey coach of the Flames, has overseen a major overhaul of the club’s athletic facilities. school, along with the modernization and expansion of its NCAA programs. .
“It’s exciting and we are truly blessed,” Handy said. “When I joined Club Sports in 2008, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. wanted a big boost. It was really cool to see where it started in 2008 and where we have progressed today.
Liberty’s Club Sports program now includes 31 teams, ranging from men’s and women’s hockey to gymnastics, crew, paintball, wrestling and more.
Winter sports have taken off since the opening of the LaHaye Ice Center in 2006 – home to the men’s (Division I, II and III) and women’s (Division I and II) ice hockey teams and the women’s ice hockey teams. figure skating and synchronized skating – and the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Center, which opened in the summer of 2009 and serves as a training base for the men’s and women’s ski and snowboard teams.
Spring and summer sports received a huge boost with the donation of Ivy Lake and the construction of a boathouse for the men’s and women’s crew in 2009, opening the Liberty Lacrosse complex to the fall 2011 and the addition of four new beach volleyball courts beyond the new intramural courts at the Liberty Mountain base this winter.
Liberty men’s lacrosse coach Kyle McQuillan remembers when he had to get creative in planning his team’s practices and venues before the complex was built.
“Space on the pitch was an important commodity from the start,” he said. “The first year that we were a program, we kind of bounced back wherever we could access. We played a few games in the soccer stadium and trained near Champion Circle for a while.
|Team rooms are available for field hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse programs at the new Liberty Lacrosse Complex on the East Campus. The complex also includes coach offices and a concession area.|
McQuillan compares the lacrosse complex setup favorably to many NCAA facilities and many schools in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, the conference the Flames attend.
“This is the best facility in MCLA bar none,” he said. “It’s a huge blessing. It’s good to have a home, that’s for sure.
The site includes synthetic turf pitches for the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams as well as a harder synthetic turf pitch for the women’s field hockey team. A sports complex with team changing rooms, coaching offices, sports training facilities, a training hall for match day operations and a concession area was completed last March.
The complex is a huge draw in generating recruiting interest for the club program.
“Our kids are blown away by the recruiting opportunities,” McQuillan said. “It shows how seriously Liberty takes lacrosse, being so young. It is a foundation on which we can build.
He said the artificial surface is ideal in that it drains well and doesn’t get muddy with rain and is low maintenance. The country house gives the team a base from which to operate.
“It’s a consistent, reliable place to train and to house our equipment and our guys,” said McQuillan. “It really is immeasurable how much this improves our program and will continue to do for us in the growth of our program. “
The resort has gradually become more fan-friendly, with plenty of room to grow.
“Initially there were no seats and now we have probably 1,500 seats (between the three fields),” said McQuillan. “Our hope is to maximize this and go beyond that. There is plenty of space to add seats.
|Four new beach volleyball courts are located adjacent to The Patch, bringing the total number of courts to eight on the East Campus.|
Beach volleyball is one of the most popular recreational sports on the Liberty campus, rivaling volleyball and indoor basketball.
“In the spring, summer and fall, it’s almost impossible to play volleyball.
rts on campus, there are so many students using them, ”said Drew Sherwood, Flames Men’s and Women’s Beach Volleyball Head Coach. “It’s the most popular recurring week-to-week event.”
With the Beach Volleyball Club teams starting up this year, Sherwood needed a place for his players to train and practice. The four new lighted pitches, located adjacent to four new turf flag football / ultimate frisbee pitches and a turf softball field near Candlers Mountain Road, complement the four sand pitches already in place adjacent to the new complex. lacrosse on the east campus.
Sherwood, who also oversees Snowflex, is impressed with the quality of both sets of courts.
“The school (including Lee Beaumont, vice president of auxiliary services, and Shane Pinder, head coach of the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball team) did an exceptional job building them and by designing them, ”he said. “They put in place a phenomenal court system that we have and just transferred it to four other courts.”
|Members of the freshman beach volleyball team practice on The Patch, jumping over log obstacles built in the sand.|
A cool new feature alongside the new beach courts is The Patch, a sand agility course with logs set up as obstacles. It’s already being put to good use by many Liberty’s NCAA programs, including football, in workouts led by strength and conditioning coordinator Bill Gillespie. Club Sports teams, including men’s and women’s hockey, wrestling and beach volleyball teams, also held practice sessions on The Patch.
“Sand is just a good stability workout, for strengthening, rehabilitating your joints and knees,” Sherwood said. “A lot of hockey players like to go and play there.”
There is also a new indoor training center open to all Club Sports athletes located in the former Liberty Christian Academy football field, across from the lower parking lot of the LaHaye Ice Center. It was renovated over the Christmas holidays and is awaiting the arrival of equipment before athletes can start using the training rooms.
Handy said the program has grown too big for his training facility at LaHaye Ice Center.
|The former LCA football field has been transformed into a new training center specially designed for Club Sports athletes.|
“We built it when we had 150 student athletes,” he said. “Now with 500 student-athletes we’ve grown, so we’ve got this brand new building and we’re going to move all the teams there except hockey. “
Currently, the wrestling team trains in the Wiseman Wrestling Hall, located at the south end of Williams Stadium, and uses the new Schilling Center for their home games, including the Mid-Atlantic Conference Tournament of Saturday.
Plans are also underway to add an on-campus gymnastics arena in the new Schilling Center, slated to open in 2015, which would replace The Plaza’s current facility in downtown Lynchburg.
“It’s part of this new plan we have for the LaHaye Student Union,” Handy said. “Once we’re done it’s going to be another thing that’s really going to catapult this team. “
The facility will be designed to accommodate all the equipment necessary for the practice and hosting of gymnastics competitions.
Handy said the men’s volleyball team will also benefit from a planned expansion of the LaHaye Student Union.
Further projects to improve sports and recreation offerings for Liberty student-athletes are in the planning stages, in particular around the new Schilling Center and the LaHaye Student Union.