For Phil Champlin, it was a case of good news, bad news at the Liberty Lake City Council meeting last week.
On one hand, the executive director of the HUB Sports Center learned that the venue he manages could utilize a $30,000 grant from the city for day-to-day expenses, such as rent. The funds had originally been approved by Liberty Lake last year for marketing purposes.
On the other side of the coin, a committee assigned June 1 to explore the potential of Liberty Lake owning or maintaining the facility, reported that such a possibility remained unlikely. The group, comprised of Council Members Josh Beckett, David Crump and Ryan Romney, had been meeting with Champlin and representatives from the Spokane Regional Sports Council – a HUB advocate – over the past month.
Launched as Sports USA in 2004, the HUB Sports Center features nearly 67,000 square feet of space and serves as host for a wide range of local and regional sporting events. HUB officials and representatives of the Spokane Regional Sports Council are trying to rally support for the building, which was put up for sale in May.
Photo by: Craig Howard
Shortly after receiving status as a 501c3 nonprofit entity this spring, the 66,500-square-foot facility that houses the HUB was put up for sale. HUB officials have been trying to drum up financial support – from both public and private investors – to keep the doors open.
“I think everyone in this room would like to see the HUB continue and be successful,” Beckett said at the July 6 council meeting. "But this is a regional benefit. If the region is serious about ensuring that the HUB or any other sports facility is successful, we’ll be as supportive as we can but we won’t provide any additional resources until the region recognizes this benefit.”
Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman has discussed the possibility of forming a parks district as a way to fund the HUB. The approach, utilized successfully in communities like Tacoma and Pullman, draws money from property tax to support parks and other recreational facilities. Last week, Van Orman said a potential parks district consisting of Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley would keep the HUB running at a cost of 4 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“It’s something like a transportation benefit district, but a sports benefit district,” Van Orman said.
Eric Sawyer, executive director of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, said a local parks district could prove to be a benefit not only to the HUB, but to the regional parks and recreation system. The general Spokane Valley area, Sawyer noted, is lacking fields for sports like baseball and soccer.
“Collectively, I think people see the value in a venue like the HUB,” Sawyer said. “We just need to establish a process that starts the dialogue.”
From a voter’s standpoint, Sawyer referred to the 2007 general election ballot that included a $42.9 million capital facilities bond for improvements to parks and recreation facilities in the city of Spokane. The initiative passed by over 68 percent.
“When you look at most public surveys, parks are right up there after public safety and roads as a top community priority,” Sawyer said. “It makes sense when you talk about the HUB. Here’s this tremendous facility that benefits the region. It seems like we could come up with a solution.”
Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey has received updates on the HUB from Van Orman, though he said there has been no talk yet of an interlocal parks district.
“The HUB has been good for the community,” Towey said. “But right now, it’s kind of tough to ask a city to put up money for a regional facility. As a city and as a community, I still think we need to give them all the moral support we can.”
Champlin told the Liberty Lake City Council in June that the facility had gone from a deficit of around $40,000 last year to a current surplus of $11,000. Champlin also reported that events at the HUB benefited the local economy to the tune of $1.2 million in 2009.
The building, along with 3.5 acres of surrounding land, is currently listed at $4 million.
While Champlin, Sawyer and other associated with the HUB remain optimistic about a public funding option, Champlin said last week that he hopes to secure private financing that would sustain the facility until next spring when 501c3 grant money may be forthcoming.
“The public process is just that – it’s a process,” Champlin said.
In the meantime, event organizers and potential advertisers are left wondering if the HUB will be open from September through May, a time that Champlin said represents “80 to 90 percent” of the venue’s business. Last January, some 20,000 visitors went through the turnstiles.
Both Champlin and Sawyer say they hope to provide an update before Spokane Valley City Council this month.
“If everyone waits for someone else to do something, it’s not going to happen,” Champlin said. “It’s going to take community and business leaders stepping up.”