Another major construction project is coming to Liberty University.
At the quarterly Town and Gown meeting Wednesday between city and local college officials, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced LU plans to add a new arena to campus.
The new 125,000-square-foot facility will be attached to the Vines Center and be used mostly for volleyball and basketball games. Teams will use the locker rooms and practice facilities already in the Vines Center. The new arena will accommodate 4,000 people, or up to 4,500 if seats also are placed on the floor.
LU plans to use the new arena for games and events with anticipated crowds of 4,000 or less.
The university does not have an anticipated cost yet, though LU plans to open the arena by 2020.
Falwell said Wednesday this is a money-saving measure that will reduce the costs of setting up for LU’s thrice-weekly convocation and then breaking down staging and seating for 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 a smaller arena will make for a more exciting fan experience at events that draw 2,000 or 3,000 fans compared to seeing an athletic contest in the Vines Center, which can accommodate 9,500-plus attendees for basketball games and more for convocation, according to LU’s website.
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 Vines when attendance is expected to be above 4,000.
The arena will be built on a lot that currently is used for bus pickups, which will shift from its spot adjacent to the Vines Center to further down University Boulevard, not far from the current location.
“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 east bound lane of the bypass will serve the parking deck,” Jerry Falwell Jr. wrote via mail.
For Liberty, the new arena coming in 2020 is the continued buildup of its athletic facilities, which gained a new $29 million indoor football practice center and a $20 million natatorium, both of which 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 make the leap into the Football Bowl Subdivision this coming season.
Since 2010, Liberty has spent nearly $1 billion on improving and building new athletic and academic 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 LU master plans continues as Liberty works to develop a new student parking lot and activities space near on-campus housing and plans 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 at 9 a.m. in City Hall.