HUB enters crunch time of pivotal capital campaign

By Steve Christilaw

Liberty Lake Splash Correspondent


Sometimes places just take on the perfect name and sometimes they just grow into the name.

Either way, the HUB Sports Center, 19619 E. Cataldo in Liberty Lake, is exactly what its name implies.

Like the center of an epic wheel, the HUB has grown into a 66,000-square foot, concrete outer shell for the center of a great deal of sporting activity – from boxing and karate to volleyball, basketball and even pickleball.

And it’s well on its way to staying at the center of that activity for a long time to come. But to make that future a reality will take some extra hustle as the clock winds down on an ambitious capital campaign.

“I’m optimistic,” HUB Executive Director Phil Champlin said. “It’s not going to be an easy pass by any means, but we’ve got some really good support. We’re officially at about $1.95 million raised or pledged so far and we have some things set up to help get us closer to the $3.9 million we set out to raise.

The time of year, Champlin said, will hopefully be a boon to the effort.

“We’re setting up an event for Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) for people to help,” he said. “We have an anonymous donor who pledged $15,000 toward our goal if we can get the community to match it.”

Champlin said there are ongoing talks with foundations for about a potential $350,000 grant as well as a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce for, perhaps another $300,000.

The evolution of the HUB Sports Center has been dramatic – which is a selling point for potential donors.

“There almost isn’t a night when we don’t have something going on in here,” Champlin said. “And it’s amazing just how many different things we can configure this place to accommodate. Early on, we put down sport court and we held Roller Derby in here. We can do basketball and volleyball. We’ll have people in there flying model planes. We do badminton and, just today, we had 60 people in here to play pickleball. It’s amazing how popular pickleball has become.”

Champlin points to the strength of the facility and its mission as benefits in appealing to benefactors.

“Prospective donors can come in and take a look at what we do,” he said. “We are a 501 c(3) nonprofit organization and we’re already self-sustaining.”

Champlin was hired as the HUB’s executive director in 2009. In his time at the helm, the operation first became self-sustaining – a major hurdle in its own right – and is now working toward its goal of being able to purchase the building and surrounding property outright.

An anonymous donor put up the cash to purchase the building and the property to take it off the market, then donated it to the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

HUB Sports Center has until the spring of 2017 to purchase the property from the foundation for $3.2 million.

“The nice thing about this process is that I know the foundation wants us to succeed,” Champlin said. “They’re rooting for us to make it.”

The plan has always been to raise $3.9 million, with the additional $700,000 to be used to endow some of the center’s programs.

“The plan all along was that we only want to do this once,” Champlin said. “We want to be in the position where the programs we have can keep themselves going. And we want to be able to go forward with new challenges when they come up and not have to say ‘Wait while we go raise money.’”

The HUB has grown into a vital part of the community. Over the years it has played host several USA Boxing Trials, volleyball tournaments as well an afterschool program for at-risk middle school students.

It was a life-saver for Freeman School District during the construction process for its new high school, with several of its sports programs using the HUB because there was no more room in the middle school gym with all of the high school facilities closed during the building process.

“We keep trying to talk (Freeman Athletic Director) Brian Parisotto into having one game here every year, just for old-time’s sake,” Champlin laughed. “But he doesn’t want to leave that gorgeous new gym he has to do that. And I can’t blame him.”

In an odd way, the fact that HUB Sports Center is fully operational can work against the fundraising effort.

“It’s generally harder to raise money for something that’s already been built,” longtime HUB Board Member Chuck Stocker said. “That’s usually the case. It’s easier to get people to contribute when all you have to show them are a set of plans.”

And, truth be told, the outsides of the HUB Sports Center – despite an impressive new sports collage on the exterior east wall – aren’t going to inspire anyone to reach for their wallet or write them a check.

To find that inspiration, you have to pull off I-90 and find your way to the building for a visit.

Champlin calls it “the huge unique building.” By the size and shape of the outer shell, it’s easy to see it as the huge warehouse it almost became after the initial owners, Sports USA, defaulted after less than two years of the building opening in February 2004 and turned the building over to Garco Construction. After sitting empty for a year and a half, it was almost sold for storage.

Led by local pastor Ian Robertson, an effort brought Upward Basketball to the space and, two years later, in 2007, HUB took over.

After Champlin was hired in 2009, he asked his board of directors for some stability and certainty so that he could attract users and make some guarantees that the building would be open and available.

An anonymous donor put up $3.2 million to purchase the property from Garco Construction to take it off the market. The plan is to repay that generosity in the spring, Stocker said.

“We have a self-imposed deadline of December,” he said. “We wanted to give ourselves some time to look at where we are before the note comes due in the spring.”

The financial numbers are impressive.

By the end of 2010, HUB was fully self-sustaining. Almost 180,000 people use the facility each year and revenue approaches $280,000 per year with an economic impact on the community of $6 million according to Spokane Sports Commission estimates. The extensive list of events brings in visitors from all over the region.

Numbers like that are vital to the community.

“The community has come together to support the HUB,” Stocker said. “The last three years we’ve held a fundraising breakfast every fall and we’re raised $60,000 each year. The people of this community are very good about stepping up and supporting things like this.”

Future plans are to remain good stewards of the facility, Champlin said.

“We will continue to pay ourselves rent so that we can continue to do a good job of taking care of the building,” he said. “And we will continue to invest in future projects.”

Champlin believes the HUB Sports Center can do even more to help make Spokane a gathering place for youth sports – and a destination for sporting activities from throughout the Inland Northwest.

But, what happens if the fundraising comes up short of the goal?

“At that point, it’s kind of out of our hands,” Champlin said. “It goes back to the foundation and it remains to be seen what they’re going to want to do. Whether we would be able to go out on our own and obtain a loan for the difference is an open question. We’ve been fortunate not to have to service debt up until now has been a good thing, but that remains a possibility. “The goal,” Champlin said, “is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Want to help?

To learn more about the HUB Sports Center and ways to support the ongoing capital campaign, visit or call 927-0602.

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