Those who have followed the turbulent history of the HUB Sports Center – going back to its ballyhooed debut as Sports USA in 2004 – understand that Phil Champlin did not exactly take over a self-supported luxury liner in November 2009.
In fact, there were some who even described the 67,000-square-foot multipurpose venue as nothing less than a sinking ship.
These days, the waters are much less choppy.
Phil Champlin took over as executive director of the HUB Sports Center in November 2009 and has helped the 67,000-square-foot multipurpose venue secure increased visibility and financial stability in just over two years.
“You could say we’ve turned the proverbial corner,” said Champlin who became the third executive director in the HUB’s history since it reopened four years ago.
After Sports USA closed in December 2005, the building sat vacant until April 2007 when a group led by local pastor Ian Robertson rallied to open the venue as ValleyHUB. The site earned nonprofit 501c3 status last year.
Champlin anticipates the total number of HUB visitors – including participants, officials and fans – to check in at around 150,000 for 2011, up from 97,000 last year. There are now 14 sponsors on board, each signed to a contract spanning at least a year. Events, classes and tournaments have also increased. Over the recent Thanksgiving weekend, an inaugural tournament featuring futsal – played with a weighted soccer ball – drew 18 teams and nearly 150 participants.
“For a first-time tournament, it went pretty well,” Champlin said.
The venue – located on the western fringe of Liberty Lake off the Barker Road exit – has also hosted concerts, movie nights and fundraisers like a charity game featuring the Harlem Ambassadors in September that generated funds for the Washington Coalition of Crime Victim Advocates.
Last spring, Champlin pitched the HUB as a venue for public investment, appearing before entities like the Liberty Lake City Council and talking to representatives from Spokane County and the city of Spokane Valley. While the discussions did not produce a capital facilities ballot campaign, let alone a city purchasing the building, the HUB has received funds from both Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley to promote its efforts.
In September, the HUB was one of 13 local agencies to receive financial support from the city of Spokane Valley as it was awarded $5,000, up from $3,000 the previous year. On Tuesday, the news was even better as the Spokane Valley City Council awarded the HUB $42,600 in lodging tax funds.
“I think these cities were basically saying, ‘We can’t fund the whole enchilada, but how can we support you?’” Champlin said. “I think they understand we add value to the local economy and they appreciate what we’re doing here.”
The success meant Champlin could defer a line of credit made possible by the HUB board of directors last spring that would have gone through this May. By October 2010, the facility had reached a self-sustaining point. Over the past year, the numbers have shined as brightly as the newly polished courts – attendance has increased 47 percent, court usage is up 67 percent and sponsorships have climbed 135 percent.
Eric Sawyer, executive director of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, said Champlin has been the key in the HUB’s newfound stability.
“Phil’s done a great job getting the facility to reach its potential,” Sawyer said. “There are still challenges out there, but it’s got a niche now and Phil deserves credit for that.”
Sawyer said HUB solvency now means the Sports Commission bidding for a variety of tournaments and other events at the HUB instead of facing a shaky agenda ahead.
“I think people always understood that this is the kind of facility that can be successful,” Sawyer said.
From college volleyball tournaments to regional wrestling competitions, the HUB continues to host an array of events that bring in teams and fans from out of town. Appearing at the Council of Governments meeting hosted by Spokane County this May, Champlin described how the facility was anticipating receipts of close to $188,000 in rental revenue for 2011.
At the meeting, Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard added his support for the HUB.
“This facility is critically important,” Richard said. “It has a positive effect across the entire county.”
Champlin said that while regional events are vital to the venue’s success, he hopes to maintain a balance with area leagues, classes and tournaments that tap into a local following. In addition to sponsoring AAU, YMCA and Upward basketball leagues, the building is the site of senior pickleball and badminton, lunchtime open gyms and self-defense clinics.
“We understand that this is still a work in progress,” Champlin said. “But things are going very well right now. I think we’re making a positive difference in the community.”
Want to find out more?
The HUB Sports Center is located at 19619 E. Cataldo Ave. in Liberty Lake. To learn more about HUB events, programs and opportunities for financial support, call 927-0602 or visit www.hubsportscenter.org.