Liberty shows off its new digs
by, 10-02-2010 at 06:51 PM (1284 Views)
LYNCHBURG, Va. — The equivalent of the Hollywood premier in the Football Championship Subdivision in the past few years is the grand opening of new, or refurbished stadiums.
This year alone, we have seen Southern Illinois and Richmond open new stadiums, while last year featured the unveiling of renovated digs for schools such as Appalachian State and Old Dominion.
On this Saturday, the big premier is at Liberty University, where the Flames are unveiling the brand new version of Arthur L. Williams Stadium in its game against Savannah State.
This writer has covered games in the past at LU, but the impression as I drove past the field on Saturday night was a jaw-dropping "Wow." And that was before I had even walked into this sparkling, luxurious edifice.
It would be hard to find and FCS facility that has undergone such a startling facelift. There was a time when visiting locker rooms were so cramped and inadequate that teams would spend their halftime sessions behind one of the end zones, high school-style.
With state-of-the-art locker rooms now in place, you will never see that again.
Remarkably, Liberty broke ground on the football support facility just in 2005 and was completed in just a year. The expansion of the stadium from 12,000 to 19,200 was finished in less than 10 months.
In an era when service providers most places are known for surliness, another commendation has to go to the Liberty staff for its friendliness and helpfulness. You won't a nicer game-day staff anywhere in FCS as nice and genuinely considerate as those in Lynchburg.
The crowd who showed up for Saturday's premier was just as friendly and exceedingly enthusiastic as they awaited the opening kickoff.
Danny Broggin brought the Flame faithful to their feet on that first play with a spectacular 88-yard kickoff return for what looked to be a touchdown. But the ACC/Big South officials proved to be party poopers by throwing an extremely late flag against Brandon Apon for a personal foul.
It took just three plays for the Liberty fans to see more pyrotechnics, literal pyrotechnics, as in fireworks. Quarterback Mike Brown knifed through the Savannah State defense for 18 yards and a touchdown.
On the next drive, Brown hit Chris Summers for nine yards as Summers tippy-toed in the back of the end zone for a score.
Following a blocked punt and 22-yard return for a score by SSU's Rashaud Ferrell, Summers made another beautiful catch of a perfectly tossed Brown spiral for 30 yards and a TD to make it 21-7, Liberty with less than four minutes to play in the first period.
If these offensive fireworks are any indication of what Flame fans are to expect in this game and in the future, the pyrotechnic bill could be large. But it was a fitting start for such a classy premier.