If you were to compare the history of the HUB Sports Center to a high-profile playoff contest, the latest news from the embattled venue could be likened to a series of clutch points with the game on the line.
The dilemma for HUB Executive Director Phil Champlin has to do with the final margin still being up in the air.
Champlin announced recently that the HUB has been awarded status as a 501c3 nonprofit company, providing opportunities for much-needed grants and tax-exempt donations. HUB officials – including Champlin, a board of directors and a collection of business and community leaders – hope the shift will be part of the financial solution for a venue that has struggled for solvency since it opened as a for-profit venture called Sports USA in 2004.
“This will open some doors for us but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Champlin who took over as executive director in late 2009.
After the building known as Sports USA closed its doors within two years of a celebrated grand opening, the 66,500-square-foot space stood vacant for close to a year before a group led by Ian Robertson and other representatives of the faith community announced it would bring back the site as the Valley HUB in April 2007. Since then, a series of fund-raising efforts have fallen short of generating enough capital to purchase the building and surrounding 8.5 acres of land. Champlin pegs the current price tag – which would include $750,000 for a reserve capital improvements fund – at $5 million.
In a press release about the nonprofit announcement last month, Champlin noted that “if the HUB cannot raise significant capital over the next few months, they will need to close the facility.”
Champlin expressed hope that cities like Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley – as well as private benefactors – “would step in and take this on.” Last year, Liberty Lake approved a grant of $30,000 to the HUB to be used for marketing and promotional efforts. Champlin said there are plans to utilize the funds for signage and improvements on the HUB’s Web site.
“We hope the HUB will be recognized not only as a wonderful facility for sports, but also for conventions and other events,” said Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman after the grant was approved by City Council. “This is a regional sports venue like no other. The more people know about it, the more popular it’s going to be.”
Recently Van Orman has brought up the idea of establishing a metropolitan parks district such as the kind in cities like Tacoma, Pullman and Tualatin, Ore. A district can be formed by an individual city or consist of several jurisdictions and can place funding mechanisms on the ballot to support parks and facilities such as the HUB. Van Orman said a typical initiative would involve a taxed amount of between 25 cents to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“(The HUB) is a regional facility of significance,” Van Orman said. “It’s something that we should be working to keep.”
Since reopening in 2007, the HUB has been home to a diverse agenda including competitions such as the USA Judo Fall Classic Championships and regional volleyball tournaments sponsored by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Spokane Regional Sports Commission estimated that events at the HUB have brought in around $1.3 million to the local economy over the past year.
“It’s just a great site for so many regional events,” said Suzanne Boyce of the sports commission. “The HUB has been an ideal venue in cases where facilities at Gonzaga or Eastern Washington might not be available or the Spokane Arena is too expensive.”
In addition to its value as a revenue generator, Champlin said the HUB provides benefits as a community gathering place and athletic training center. Over the past several months, the schedule has expanded to include a lunchtime basketball league and classes in Zumba aerobics, yoga and tennis.
“If this facility doesn’t exist, you’ve lost that competitive equalizer with teams on the west side of the state that have facilities like this,” Champlin said.
There are 10 different summer camps booked for the HUB this summer, although Champlin said that some event organizers have held off scheduling tournaments down the road because of the perceived viability of the building while certain companies have been hesitant to advertise or pledge sponsorships for the same reasons.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Champlin said. “I just think we need to establish a purpose and a sense of direction so that groups buy into what we’re doing here.”
|Originally launched as Sports USA in 2004, the HUB Sports Center was recently awarded nonprofit 501c3 status, making it eligible for grants and tax-exempt donations. The 66,500-square-foot multipurpose venue will also be able to utilize a $30,000 grant from the city of Liberty Lake for marketing and promotional efforts that could include a sign on the front of the building.