HUB celebrates of decade of positive impact, growth

By Steve Christilaw

Splash Correspondent


There was a time, not so long ago, that the odds were running well against the HUB Sports Center reaching a 10th anniversary.

In fact, when Phil Champlin came on board as the facilities executive director, he had to go to his board of directors and urge them to give him a guarantee so that he could book events a year out.

“It wasn’t the best sales pitch,” Champlin laughed. “Have your event here – we may still be here.”

So, there is a great sense of pride, and relief, in the fact that the HUB has not only survived, but is on solid footing as it launches into its second decade.

When the HUB Sports Center made its “second” debut in 2007 after first opening in 2004 as Sports USA, the folks that worked there would joke that HUB stood for “Huge, Ugly Building.”

Now, 10 years in, that joke has changed. They now refer to the building as the “Huge, Unique Building.”

“We have spruced things up a little bit,” Champlin said of the venue that spans nearly 67,000 square feet. “We have a great mural on the outside that shows what we can do.”

For the many and varied programs that make the HUB home, the building is beautiful for its flexibility. Its multi-use abilities are unique in their range. It’s become home to AAU programs, club volleyball, YMCA programs and its own “HUB 360” programs for at-risk youth.

The HUB – located in west Liberty Lake off I-90 and the Barker exit – has played host to plenty of all-star basketball games and recently expanded to offer, for the first time anywhere, all-star volleyball games as well.

“When I was hired, at the end of 2009, we’d already been open for a few years,” Champlin recalled. “We were struggling to figure out if this place could make it on its own. We had groups in here and we had people participating in events, but the question we were asking ourselves was if there was enough need for a facility like this in the community. I was praying that the answer was ‘Yes.’”

Once Champlin got his assurance that the place would stay open, he began pulling in events and activities that put the facility on stable ground. By 2011 it hit a milestone – the HUB began to have a positive, monthly cash flow.

“That allowed us to start doing more positive outreach,” Champlin said. “Suddenly we were able to not just bring events here, we were able to begin to get creative and create our own events. That gave us a tremendous amount of flexibility.”

Along the way, there has been plenty of community support, from the generosity of property owner Garco Construction to the efforts of a group led by Ian Robertson that rallied for the revival of the facility in 2007 after a two-year hiatus.

Once the HUB began to pay its own way by bringing in more money than it was spending, Champlin moved to insure its long-term viability by launching a capital campaign to officially buy the property.

“We had so many people that we were crazy to start a capital campaign,” Champlin said. “The timing wasn’t great, but you don’t always get to choose when the time is right. We needed to raise money.”

The HUB needed to raise $3.2 million to purchase the property, but set a goal of raising $3.9 million so that the facility would have working capital to make repairs and improvements without having to go into debt.

That campaign is now in its end stages.

“We’re in a good position,” Champlin said. “Like a lot of nonprofit organizations, we’re dependent on the state’s capital budget. We’ve gotten great support from our legislators here in the 4th Legislative District as well as the ones in the 3rd and the 6th, our surrounding areas. We’re expecting about $800,000 from a number of spots in that budget and that will make a big difference. The Northwest Community Foundation has been a really strong supporter.”

Champlin said the HUB is “right at the cusp” of buying the building.

“We may need to take out a small loan to provide some bridge money to make it all work, but we will be able to pay that off without any trouble.”

From the beginning, Champlin says the HUB has had no trouble filling its calendar during peak times – the winter months. Basketball, volleyball and Pickleball keep the space in demand when the weather turns inhospitable.

“The challenge has always been to fill the valleys,” he said. “There were summers where I was the only full-time employee here on a day-to-day basis. Thankfully, we’ve been able to change that. Now we have something here 360 out of 365 days per year.”

It’s taken some outside-the-box thinking, but it’s worked. There is even a regular event for fans of radio-controlled airplanes, using the airspace above the gym floor.

And there is always more room for more programs and more events.

“My favorite thing is to welcome people in here and to give them a tour,” Champlin said. “We’ll be walking through the building and they will stop and say, ‘You know, have you ever thought about …’”

“I love to hear their ideas,” Champlin said. “They inspire us.”

To learn more about the HUB Sports Center, call 927-0602 or visit

The HUB Sports Center in Liberty Lake celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017. Programming at the venue has increased over the past decade, including a “Dads and Dudes” event each year for fathers and sons.


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