Panhandle Performance Zone officially open to West Liberty students

Graphic provided by Lacey Deem.

In January, West Liberty University held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Panhandle Performance Zone. The Panhandle Performance Zone is the main strength and conditioning training center for all of West Liberty’s student athletes and houses some of the most up to date equipment available.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony paid tribute to the Contraguerro family and Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration as thanks for their contribution and guidance during the construction of the Performance Zone. Alongside the WLU Foundation, the Panhandle Performance Zone was privately funded by generous donors such as the Contraguerro family, Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, Gary and Flip West and Bucky and Joanne Kopf.

Angie Zambito-Hill, the WLU Foundation Executive Director said, “The WLU Foundation worked in partnership with Lynn Ullom, athletic director, WLU Athletics and several donors to identify donors, raise funds and manage those funds to complete the budget for the project.”

The ceremony marked the official opening of the Performance Zone. The facility has already been put to use by several of West Liberty’s athletic teams over recent months, but they can now enjoy the officially updated amenities. “We officially cut a ribbon to indicate that the Panhandle Performance Zone is now open and being used by student athletes from all athletic programs,” said Zambito-Hill. The Performance Zone is a significant upgrade from the aging weight room used by student athletes in previous years.

WLU now boasts one of the best facilities in the region with 18 Mondo Deck lifting platforms and 16 Stray Dog posterior chain machines. Among the updated equipment are two complete sets of Iron Grip dumbbells ranging from 5 to 130 pounds. The middle of the gym is taken up by 20-yards of SporTurf artificial turf to provide an area for student athletes to work on sport-specific skills such as speed, agility and power. “The 18 racks with all the attachments are my favorite because it allows multiple smaller teams to workout at the same time and less groups for the bigger teams,” said Dan Hopkins, WLU Football offensive coach. “Also, the turf opens up so much more sport specific training capabilities,” he said.

West Liberty’s Panhandle Performance Zone has been a long time in the making. “The planning for the weight room was led by Coach Roger Waialae and Coach Dan Hopkins of WLU Football. It was really their vision,” said Zambito-Hill. Ideas for the new facility from Waialae and Hopkins started brewing shortly after Covid hit in Spring 2020. The process was then one of trial and error before a final goal was settled on. “We worked with an architect to help formalize that vision and then several subcontractors to do the work. Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration was instrumental in the renovation of the facility,” said Zambito-Hill.

The variety of equipment available in the facility makes the new Performance Zone highly versatile and allows conditioning sessions to be more valuable for the wide variety of student athletes at WLU. Hopkins said, “The influence for the football team is that there are several new options to train more sport specific power and reduce the chance of injury with some of the attachments and equipment that allows us to work on building a stable and balanced athlete.”

West Liberty Women’s Soccer Head Coach, Barry Christmas, echoed similar thoughts. “The student athletes are fortunate to have such a facility,” he said. “In season we will have the room and resources to ensure the whole squad can train at the same time and be more efficient with our injury prevention process.” Christmas also mentioned how the increased size of the facility has made scheduling times for the weight room much easier.
Up to 60 student athletes can train in the Panhandle Performance Zone at once, so finding time slots that coordinate with other practices has become much easier for all coaches. “We are excited for our athletic programs to be able to utilize the Panhandle Performance Zone and become better athletes through performance enhancement and injury reduction,” said Hopkins.

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