HUB Sports Center prepared for rainy day, but closure amid pandemic makes deep cut in revenue

Thu., April 2, 2020

By Steve Christilaw


Governor Jay Inslee’s order to shut down nonessential businesses meant the Spokane Valley’s HUB Sports Center was going to take a big economic hit.

Closing the doors meant canceling two of the center’s biggest annual events, including the annual Pacific Northwest Qualifying volleyball tournament that takes place at Eastern Washington University, the Spokane Convention Center and HUB over the last two weekends of March.

“That one and the weekend before the PNQ when we host a middle school basketball tournament,” HUB executive director Phil Champlin said. “Those are three of our biggest weekends of the year. That probably cost us about $30,000 to $35,000 dollars between rental revenue and concessions. That’s a pretty significant impact.

“Fortunately, we were already coming off of our busy season – winter is always our busiest season.”

It could have been worse, he admitted.

“In terms of having cash on hand we’re in a good spot,” he said. “We’ve been good and fiscally responsible when it comes to putting money aside for a rainy day. And, obviously, it’s raining now, and we’re dipping into those funds.”

With the schedule cleared for the foreseeable future, Champlin sent out an update on the facility, addressing the impact of cancelations on its financial situation.

“The closure also jeopardizes our ability to provide outreach programs for our community when we reopen in the future,” he wrote.

The HUB gets about 70% of its income through people coming to the center to use the facilities, he explained. Added to that are sponsorships for various events, but that’s tied to the initial space rental.

Those revenues allow HUB to do other community outreach with activities like the Police Athletic Leagues and other programs that are offered at no cost or reduced cost.

Combined, the HUB provides and hosts events for more than 170,000 youth and families throughout the year.

“I sent out the newsletter to let people know where we are and what we’re facing,” Champlin said. “It’s not an emergency thing. It’s more of a ‘Hey, we’re impacted by this.’”

A week in, the HUB already received donations from more than 50 people, most of them for $50. Horizon Credit Union, which partners with the center on some programs, donated $250.

“We know these are uncertain times for everyone,” Champlin said. “If you have a nonprofit out there that you support, reach out and find out what their needs are and make a donation to them if you can.”

Champlin said there can be no makeup dates for events canceled by attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19. It would be almost impossible to find a date where EWU, the Convention Center and HUB were all available for the same consecutive weekends, he said.

The center is looking into where, and if, the HUB could get some funds through last week’s $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill.

“We’re working with the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce to sift through the bill to see what might be available to us,” Champlin said.

The bill allocated $350 billion to the Small Business Administration to provide loans of up to $10 million to qualifying organizations – funds that can be used for critical activities like paying rent and keeping employees on the payroll.

“There are things like covering wages, mortgages and utilities up to 100% during this shutdown,” he said. “We’re looking into all of that.”

HUB had to lay off its part-time employees because there is nothing for them to do. Three full-time employees have been retained.

“We’ve been doing some cleaning and things like that, and we’re continuing to prepare for events in the future,” Champlin said. “Of course, we want to be ready on Day 1 when we can open our doors again.”

The center remains connected to the community. It continues to post games that can be played at home and has started a “chip-shot challenge,” asking people to post innovative ways of tossing a wadded-up piece of paper into a trash can.

Champlin is preparing an online scavenger hunt that will likely go live beginning next week.

The outlook for when businesses might be able to reopen is unclear at present.