- Jared Goodman
Vines Center – Liberty Flames
Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Vines Center 1971 University Dr. Lynchburg, VA 24502
Year Opened: 1990
Fan the Flames
The Liberty Flames basketball team currently plays all their home games at the geodesic Vines Center in Lynchburg, Virginia. This multi-purpose venue seats almost 10,000 people and is home to the women’s basketball and the volleyball program. It is also used for more than just sports, hosting convocations as well and other campus events.
Nicknamed “The Furnace,” the arena opened in 1990 and has been the faithful home of the Flames for the past 20 years. In 2020, the team expects to move into their new 4,500 seat Liberty Arena next door. But while the 2019-20 season will be Liberty’s last full year playing here, there’s still plenty to see and do at the Vines Center while it’s still being permanently used.
Food & Beverage 4
If you’re looking to fill that empty stomach, a visit to the main concession area may be in order. Here you’ll find some filling foods, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, nachos, and even a pizza slice. There are also a few snacks available, like popcorn, chips, and ice cream. Most of these options are priced fairly at $3-$6.
Coca-Cola is the primary beverage on tap and you can get one of these chilled sodas for as low as $3. If you’re particularly thirsty, go for the $10 bottomless soda that allows you to refill the cup as many times as you’d like. Bottled water is $2.50.
If nothing at the concession stand seems appealing, there are plenty of vending machines on the concourse. These machines are home to sweets and snacks galore, as well as sodas of all kinds.
Liberty isn’t that small Big South school any longer. After moving to the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2018, they claimed their first March Madness victory later that season and are now enjoying a period of relative success.
The game-day experience at Vines Center reflects this, providing the unique and wild atmosphere that the team deserves. When the Flames’ players make their entrance onto the court, spouts attached to the tunnel entrance shoot fire – flames, if you will. They go off continuously throughout the game and light up after every Flames bucket, appropriately.
The student section is the leader of the encouragement. The school band plays at the proper times and the cheerleaders hold up the letters, “F-L-A-M-E-S” on occasion. When the opposing team shoots free throws, the first and last letters are dropped to spell, “L-A-M-E” – just the kind of taunting you’d expect at Liberty.
Liberty University is the pulse of Lynchburg. The main drag near the Liberty campus is Wards Road, a haven for big box stores and national restaurant chains. Further away is downtown Lynchburg, where you’ll find a few local eateries and shops, including a bakery called Cinn City. This pastry house is known for its delicious beignets, a type of French doughnut, and might be worth a post-game dessert stop. Jimmy on James, Grey’s, Skyline, The Water Dog are also other great local options in downtown.
There’s plenty of lodging near campus as well. While there are a few chain brands within sight of Vines Center, most of the hotel options are a few miles down the road near the Lynchburg City Airport.
Vines Center often seems sadly empty. Perhaps the fans only show up for marquee matchups or weekend games, but contests during the non-conference schedule aren’t heavily attended. However, the fans who do show up on a regular basis are very involved in the game and cheer on their Flames throughout the game.
One of the contributing factors to the appearance of weak attendance is the fact that the Vines Center is simply too large. It’s understandable that the Flames are moving into a new arena in 2020, which is slated to be half the size of their current home.
Lynchburg, while not directly connected to the Interstate system, is easily accessible via several major highways. US 29 is the primary north-south route, connecting the city to Charlottesville and I-64 in the north, and Greensboro and I-85/I-40 in the south. US 460 provides easy access to Roanoke in the southwest, linking Lynchburg to I-81.
Once on the Liberty campus, there are several free lots to choose from. While they aren’t clearly marked on game days, you can look on Liberty’s website to see about all your parking options in advance. None of the free lots are more than a 15-minute walk away, and it’s a pleasant stroll through the university common to the front door of Vines Center.
Once inside the arena, you’ll find the concourse to be easy to navigate and never crowded. The game is also visible from any point in the venue, barring the concession area where your view is blocked.
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets are available for $12 and discounted $7 tickets are offered to youth and students from any college. For $17, fans can purchase a ticket in the padded seating section near the center court. However, there’s no real advantage to sitting in this section, so it isn’t wise to spend the extra $5 for tickets here.
Concessions are a bit on the pricey side, but parking is free if you’re willing to take a short stroll. Overall, a family of four is looking at around $80 for a day out at the Vines Center.
An obvious extra point needs to be awarded for the unique geodesic dome. The trophy case that highlights achievements across Liberty Athletics warrants another point. A final mark is given for the team’s prayer with their opponent after the game.
Vine Center Geodesic Dome, Photo by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Liberty is constructing a new 4,500 seat basketball venue directly next to Vines Center that will host Flames’ basketball and volleyball starting in the 2020-21 season. According to the university, Vines will still be used for men’s basketball games that are expected to draw large crowds. Regardless, if you want to see a game under this impressive dome, get out to Lynchburg quickly.