The $65 million Liberty Arena, being built in between the Vines Center and DeMoss Hall, is targeted for an Oct. 1 completion date, in time to host the entirety of the 2020-21 home schedules for Liberty University volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball.
The 125,000-square-foot facility will seat 4,000 spectators and serve as the primary facility for all three sports.
The Vines Center, the home for those programs for the past 30 seasons, will continue to be used for concerts and events, including convocation, which generally takes place three times a week for all students.
“It’s on schedule to be ready for the fall. We expect to play the volleyball season in the arena and look forward to hosting the opening basketball games during the second week of November,” Flames athletic director Ian McCaw said in a phone interview late last week. “It’s going to be a spectacular facility, very intimate feel, and I think that will create a terrific homecourt advantage for our teams and an exciting atmosphere for our fans.”
McCaw, speaking to reporters in early April, said he wasn’t 100% certain construction would be completed for Liberty Arena in time for the start of the volleyball season. He added contingency plans were being developed in case the volleyball team needed to find other venues to host games.
However, volleyball coach Trevor Johnson loaded the nonconference schedule with road games to open the season, giving the construction team added time to complete the project prior to an early October home opener.
“They bought us a little bit more time,” McCaw said. “We’re looking forward to the facility being done right around Oct. 1, and I believe their first match at home is Oct. 6.”
McCaw in April said contracts are being finalized for the men’s and women’s basketball teams to open their seasons at Liberty Arena on Nov. 10 and 12, respectively.
Construction hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with crews working daily onsite to complete the project, in addition to the new parking garage across U.S. 460 on East Campus. McCaw said plans were for the parking garage to be completed by August.
Construction was halted temporarily at an undisclosed site from April 25 to 29. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., on “The Todd Starnes Show” in late April, said three construction crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
“The construction team has just really made good progress. They’re feeling really good about the timeline right now,” McCaw said. “They feel like they’ve made really good progress.”
Liberty Arena will become the permanent operations center for the volleyball program, with expanded locker rooms and office space.
The men’s and women’s basketball programs will continue to use the locker rooms, practice facilities and offices that were part of a $20 million, 47,000-square-foot expansion of the Vines Center completed in 2013.
“Shortly after I arrived at Liberty [in late 2016], I know we had some discussion about what was best for men’s basketball. President Falwell had a vision to build a smaller arena,” McCaw said. “In the Vines Center right now, we have so much usage of the facility; we’re constantly setting up and tearing down. By building a new arena that’s dedicated for basketball programs and volleyball, we will avoid that issue. We think having a 4,000-seat facility will be intimate and create great energy and atmosphere. We’re looking forward to moving in next November.”
Liberty Arena is one of three athletic construction projects on campus.
The tower on the west side of Williams Stadium is undergoing improvements that will be ready for the 2020 home opener scheduled for Sept. 12 against North Carolina A&T.
New exterior glass is being added on the fourth and fifth floors, which will give spectators seated on those floors the ability to open or close the windows.
New luxury indoor seats are being added on the third floor — McCaw said those have sold out for the 2020 season — and other improvements are being made to the club area.
The indoor tennis facility is scheduled to be completed in January 2021, which will allow the Flames to host indoor meets on campus instead of at Crosswhite Athletic Club. The new facility will have six indoor courts, locker rooms and meeting space for teams. Liberty is scheduled to host the ASUN Conference men’s and women’s tennis championships in the spring of 2021.
“We’re obviously very grateful for President Falwell’s leadership and support to be able to move forward with these projects, because they’ll all make a huge impact on our program,” McCaw said. “Again, I think in all three instances, the projects are on schedule.”
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.