In the June 2016 edition of the Spokane Valley Current, an article was published interviewing Executive Director, Phil Champlin, regarding the HUB Sports Center and its history, growth and future opportunities.  The article is posted below or you can click here to read the article.

Court General – Champlin marches HUB to sustainable success

By Craig Howard Current Editor
June 2016

Those who may have been surprised at Phil Champlin’s ability to rally the HUB Sports Center from the brink of insolvency to one of the most popular recreational venues in the region have probably never heard of the Aggie Park Student Spirit Group.

While an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis, Champlin and a friend formed the student-based booster club from scratch, placing a new priority on school spirit and dedication. Like the Kennel Club at Gonzaga, the Aggies’ on-campus fan base became one of the largest and most recognized in the nation. Champlin, a native of Long Beach, CA., would go on to earn his degree in Agricultural and Managerial Economics from UC-Davis before receiving his MBA from the University of Southern California.

When Champlin took over as the HUB’s third executive director in the fall of 2009, there wasn’t much cheering going on, let alone encouraging economics.

The beleaguered site opened with high hopes as Sports USA in 2004 but by December 2005, had closed its doors. The converted warehouse with four basketball courts sat silent until April 2007 when a group led by local pastor Ian Robertson revived the building with a new name – ValleyHUB.

By the time Champlin was hired over two years later, the site was not exactly flourishing. Champlin took the cause to the streets, appealing to cities like Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley for support while collaborating with the Spokane Regional Sports Commission to bring in high-profile basketball, volleyball and wrestling events. The efforts paid off. In September 2010, the HUB was awarded nearly $43,000 from Spokane Valley in lodging tax funds. By that fall, self-sustainability for the venue was no longer a mirage.

Last September, the HUB welcomed its one millionth visitor through the doors. The venue has become a second home to programs like AAU/Hoopfest and the YMCA as well as club soccer and volleyball teams. Activities like table tennis, badminton and pickleball have developed a following at the 67,000-square foot facility on the western fringe of Liberty Lake while random sports like dodgeball and BubbleBall also thrive here.

The efforts of Champlin, his staff and the HUB board have not gone unnoticed. Last month, Visit Spokane awarded the facility its “Spirit of the Inland Northwest” distinction for the HUB’s impact on local tourism. In 2013, the Central Valley School District honored the venue with a meritorious service award for its HUB 360 program that mentors at-risk middle school students. In January, the HUB was named Nonprofit of the Year by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. These days, Champlin is juggling the duties of executive director with the role of fundraiser. An ambitious capital campaign has already raised $1.8 million of a $3.9 million goal to purchase the building and establish a healthy operating reserve fund.

Champlin migrated to the Inland Northwest with his wife, Jenifer, and their family in 2004 after he was promoted to vice president of operations with Skyhawks Sports Academy. Phil and Jenifer are parents to three children who can often be found at the HUB.

Champlin was raised in the Sacramento area after his parents moved from Long Beach. Sports were central to Champlin as kid. He swam competitively and played soccer, basketball, baseball and volleyball growing up. He was a member of his high school volleyball team and found the sport to be his favorite. For the HUB, Champlin’s sports background, management experience and business savvy have proved to be a winning combination.

The Current caught up with Champlin recently to talk about what it takes to turn a warehouse into one of the region’s favorite gathering places.

Q: What did you know about the HUB when you were hired as executive director in 2009?

A: I knew that the HUB group was the second ownership group in the facility. I knew that the first group wasn’t able to make it work and the HUB team was struggling to keep the business going. But like everyone involved from both groups, I could see a lot of potential and a great opportunity to fill a need in the community.

Q: What were some of your first impressions of the potential of the building and programming there?

A: The potential of the building was, and is, huge. It was designed and constructed very well. The amount of space and multi-use ability allowed us to dream big dreams and not say “We can’t host that event” because of a lack of flexible space. One of the things I love about HUB Sports Center is there aren’t many bad ideas about what we could provide/host within the facility.

Q: Why does the community need a place like the HUB?

A: The HUB Sports Center is such a unique facility. One of the greatest challenges for any event/activity is to have a location for it. The HUB provides that location and in a capacity where these events/ activities can grow. Spokane Valley and the surrounding communities don’t have many multicourt facility options that are open to the public. We’ve received numerous requests from communities in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah and California regarding our operations and facility design as they wish to have a similar facility in their community. The HUB fills a need for space to host activities that have a positive impact on youth and the community. There are so many fantastic life lessons that are learned through involvement in sports. The HUB Sports Center provides a unique blend of community programming focus alongside positive economic impact and development through its events and activities.

Q: How might the HUB figure into Spokane County’s current plans to expand parks and recreation options throughout the community?

A: There is a proposal out regarding a ballfield project on the property to the east of the HUB. The latest proposal has eight baseball/ softball fields. This is a tremendous project that brings in community collaboration between the county, school district and cities. The (Central Valley) school district would potentially put in a middle school and have joint use of the fields. This would be in conjunction with upgrades at Plante’s Ferry Park to improve some soccer fields with turf and additional parking. This ballfield complex would be a great compliment to our indoor activities. The location “on the way to everywhere” and ease of access to the freeway make it a logical spot to build. There is a huge need for more outdoor space for soccer, football, lacrosse, rugby, softball and baseball. This facility and the improvements to Plante’s Ferry help address this need.

Q: How would you explain the popularity of a sport that has found a home at the HUB – BubbleBall?

A: BubbleBall is the best game not many have heard about. It’s a combination of football and soccer. You are in the middle of a bubble with your legs/feet out so you can run and kick the soccer ball. We added a giant soccer ball for more game play and activity. If you like physical comedy, it’s a great game to watch and play. It has been a great additional activity for us. Birthday parties, team building exercises are especially popular. We recently engaged community organizations and set the world record for the longest continuous game at just under seven hours.

Q: Have you seen communities of participants – whether it be for 3-on-3 basketball, pickleball or classes like yoga — forming at the HUB over the years?

A: The largest community that’s developed is the pickleball group. We’ve grown from a three-day per week program to four days a week and two nights. Recently, we’ve added sessions for advanced play and ladies only as well as a monthly clinic for beginners. Folks from this group have formed the North Idaho Pickleball Association and one couple brought pickleball to Costa Rica. There’s a couple basketball groups that come play on a regular basis. One group of friends that plays late once a week. The other group gets together for a lunchtime drop in play. Other small communities that have cropped up are the Zumba group, a badminton club, table tennis (which has now moved to a new location), Liberty Lake Fit Club (exercise group) and Farang Mu Sul a martial arts group. These groups/communities meet year round.

Q: Tell us about your capital campaign and what needs to happen for it to be a success.

A: We have an amazing opportunity to ensure the HUB Sports Center remains an essential and important part of our community through a capital campaign to purchase the building. This campaign will ensure the HUB remains a safe place for youth of this region for generations to come. A place to learn life lessons, skills and to build the work ethic that creates a solid foundation towards becoming a promising community member. The campaign is for $3.9 million; $3.2 million is to purchase the facility, all the assets inside and the 8.5 acres we currently occupy. The other $700,000 will go towards an operating reserve fund to provide the HUB funding to continue to move forward with our current and new outreach initiatives. The $3.2 million is due by the end of 2016. The $3.2 million will be paid to the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and into a benevolent fund which will be reallocated back into the community for the benefit of youth. Options are available for naming opportunities within the facility (courts, studios, etc.). Contributions are tax deductible as we are a 501c(3)nonprofit. We have currently raised over $1.8 million dollars toward our goal.

Q: How would you characterize community support for the HUB, both in terms of general buy-in for events and programming as well as the larger effort to secure the venue’s long-term sustainability?

A: Community support for the HUB has continued to grow as we’ve proven ourselves and this concept. There were many that didn’t believe that this facility would make it. We are a private nonprofit organization and have been self-sufficient since October of 2010. Our operating expenses are covered by a combination of rental/ program revenue, advertising sponsorships and grants. The majority of the donations received the last couple years have gone to expanding our outreach and programs for the community. The HUB is recognized as a valuable resource for the community and sought out as an event venue for a variety of activities and uses.

Q: On a lighter note, you’ve had most of the area’s well known mascots out to the HUB for events of one kind or another. If you could go from HUB executive director to being any full-time mascot, who would it be and why?

A: We have some great mascots around the area from the schools to the local sports teams. That’s a tough question. I think I would go with (Spokane Indians’ mascot) Otto. We have a few things in common. Otto is a fantastic ambassador for his organization, enjoys making people smile and have a great activity experience and helping host events that benefit the community. I like his personality and zaniness. I will have to work on my dance moves though.