By CRAIG HOWARD
The Spokane Valley News Herald
Phil Champlin is familiar with the embattled history of the community multipurpose venue he now calls home.
He knows about the ballyhooed launch of Sports USA back in 2004 when the facility opened with a goal of becoming the area’s first blend of athletic club and regional sports arena but fizzled out in less than two years after Sports USA President Kert Carlson failed to muster support from new investors.
He has heard about the time when the building, featuring nearly 67,000 square feet of space, stood vacant for over a year amid speculation that it would be transformed into a storage warehouse. That conjecture ended in April 2007 when a group led by Ian Robertson of the Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene announced that it would revive the facility under the name of “Valley HUB.”
These days, Champlin is working to build on the widely discussed potential of the site as the HUB’s newest executive director. He took over for Steve Becker just about two months ago.
“I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish here,” Champlin said. “I think it’s also good to be cognizant of what the challenges are. I really believe this is a worthwhile endeavor.”
It’s an endeavor made possible by the continued graciousness of Garco Construction, the company that owns the building and surrounding land. In 2007, Garco agreed in principle to sell the facility – located halfway between Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake – for $3.9 million. It was estimated that another $1.1 million would be required for a variety of upgrades and to finance day-to-day operations.
Fund-raising efforts have fallen well short of the listed price, although the doors remain open. Max Spalding, a member of the HUB board of directors, gave Garco President Tim Welsh credit for believing in the value of the project.
“He’s had a chance to sell the building,” Spalding said. “He understands that it does have an impact in the community.”
Spalding said that Champlin will be a valuable addition to the HUB’s mission due to his background in sports management. A graduate of the University of California-Davis in managerial economics, Champlin earned his master’s in business administration from the University of Southern California and went on to work for 10 years with Skyhawks Sports, a nationwide agency that promotes life skills through youth athletics.
Since he started in November, Champlin has delivered updates on the HUB to local businesses as well as representatives from the Parks and Recreations departments of the city of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Spokane County. The schedule at the facility has included YMCA leagues, fitness classes and Freeman High School home basketball games while the Scotties wait for their new gymnasium to be constructed.
“I’ve had good conversations with people,” Champlin said. “There is so much potential here – there’s no reason why it can’t succeed. I think people understand they can support the community by supporting this building.”
Spalding said part of the HUB’s revised mission is to market the facility as “a community recreational center.” There are plans to sponsor a 3-on-3 basketball league beginning this February and a daytime open gym is currently part of the agenda.
Still, Spalding said it will take “a team effort” to keep the lights on.
“It does have an impact, but I don’t think it’s appreciated,” he said.
The HUB continues to host regional sporting competitions such as an intercollegiate wrestling tournament last November that featured schools like North Idaho College and Eastern Oregon. A USA Judo competition is booked for this March. Suzanne Boyce of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission said the venue remains a viable site for a variety of events that have a positive impact on the local economy.
“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,” she said.
Kevin Stocker has been an advocate of the building ever since it opened as Sports USA and currently has a batting cage on loan to the HUB. The Central Valley and University of Washington graduate who went on to play pro baseball for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay said the HUB has the potential to house everything from indoor lacrosse to futsal, a sport that resembles indoor soccer.
“I think getting programs in there will really be important,” Stocker said. “I think some sort of signage would also help.”
While there are other programming ideas in the works, Champlin said there are no plans to charge an admission price in addition to leagues and activities.
“We don’t want people to be excluded from the building because they couldn’t pay a membership fee,” he said.
As 2010 dawns, Champlin will continue to knock on doors in an effort to sell the HUB to new sponsors, a quest he hopes will make the difference in finally transforming the building from a beleaguered contender into a winner that is here to stay.
“I’ll be out there advocating for our facility,” he said. “We need support from the community and businesses to underwrite some of these operating costs.
Overall, I feel good about where we’re at and where we’re going.”
Want to find out more?
The HUB Sports Center is located at 19619 E. Cataldo Ave. off the Interstate 90 Barker Road exit between Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. To learn more about the facility, call 922-0602 or visit www.valleyhub.org.
Read the original article at The Spokane Valley News Herald.