A college campus is an exciting place to be. Activities abound for young people outside the classroom as universities continue to invest in world-class facilities for sports and campus recreation.
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, a scenic city in Central Virginia nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, has recently transformed its campus, devoting $200 million out of its $1 billion rebuilding project to build and expand facilities for its athletics and recreation programs.
"With 15,000 residential students, Liberty is like a city within a city,” said NASC member Ernest Carter, External Event Coordinator for Liberty Athletics. "Since 1971, our campus has come so far, and now our facilities are some of the best in the country.”
A $30 million indoor track complex opened in January. A $20 million indoor football practice facility is scheduled to open this fall, as well as a natatorium, with a 50-meter pool and separate 17-foot-deep diving well. Liberty offers one of the most varied campus recreation programs in the country, with a year-round skiing and snowboarding slope, ice center, equestrian center, paintball complex, and more.
But Liberty students aren't the only beneficiaries of these amenities. Carter said the university has made a concerted effort to open its doors to the community.
"We want to be a good neighbor," he said. "We've stayed true to our mission to build community here, and a lot of that is about making our facilities available for public use."
Liberty has a companion in its mission: the City of Lynchburg and its Lynchburg Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB). Because Lynchburg does not have a sports commission, the bureau works to connect event owners with the venue that best fits their needs. For the past three years, the bureau has formed a unique partnership with Liberty University Athletics to bring sporting events to the region
It’s a partnership that is bringing people together — and seeing immediate results.
"It is because of Liberty University's world-class athletics facilities, and their focus to bring more people to enjoy all that this city has to offer, that we are able to attract a wider variety of sporting events to Lynchburg," said Sergei Troubetzkoy, Director of Tourism for LRCVB. "Because of this unique partnership, the City of Lynchburg gets to host sporting events we could have never hosted before."
One of those events is the Virginia Commonwealth Games, the largest annual multi-sport festival to be held in Virginia. In October 2015, Virginia Amateur Sports, the governing organization of the games, announced a five-year agreement with Liberty University and the City of Lynchburg to host “The Virginia Commonwealth Games presented by
"We are so excited about this new partnership with Virginia Amateur Sports and the City of Lynchburg,” Liberty President Jerry Falwell said at the 2015 news conference announcing the move from Roanoke, Va., (where the games were held since 1990) to Lynchburg. "We've spent the last decade building athletic and recreational facilities. We wanted to find a way to share these facilities with the local community, with the state and not keep them to ourselves . and thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring these games to Lynchburg, to share our facilities with the Commonwealth Games and with the general public.”
Last year was the first year for Liberty to host the games, which brought in a record 10,000 athletes, competing in over 55 Olympic and Pan-American sports, with most of the competitions held on Liberty’s campus.
"This was a significant accomplishment and a shining example of how strong the partnership exists between the city and the university as we worked together for the success of the event and the economic benefit of the community,” Troubetzkoy said
Surveys show that about 90 percent of participants said they would be returning for the games, and 80 percent plan to make a return visit to Lynchburg - outside of this year’s games.
But the hard work of the city and university representatives has paid off in more than just a successful event.
As the partnership grew, so did more opportunities, including a winning proposal to host The State Games of America at Liberty in 2019.
Carter is excited about more growth as the university works directly with the city. He attends the NASC Sports Event Symposiums with Lisa Meriwether, Sales Manager for LRCVB.
For more on how CVBs and universities can work together, look for the upcoming Case Study, "Teamwork in Motion: A Virginia university and a regional CVB are scoring wins together," in your packet at the NASC Sports Event Symposium in Sacramento.
March 2017 Playbook