Liberty Lake’s HUB hosts all kinds of sports

Wed., April 5, 2017

There are very few dull moments at the HUB Sports Center.

The Liberty Lake sports facility is a hoppin’ place on just about any day, all day long.

“Maybe on Thanksgiving and on Christmas Day,” office manager Cassie Atwood laughed. “We’re dark those days, but no one is around here to complain because we’re home with our families. Other than that, there’s something fun going on here just about every single day.”

On some days, she admits, it’s tough to get the day-to-day work done because what’s happening on the courts is so much fun.

“The last two weekends we’ve had the Pacific Northwest Qualifier volleyball tournament here,” Atwood said. “They started on Friday and Saturday at 7 a.m. and played matches until 9:30 or 10 p.m. On Sunday they started at 7 a.m. and played until 5 p.m. All eight of our volleyball courts are going, match after match, all day long with just an hour break during the day.

“It’s hard to get any work done on those days because it’s so much fun to watch.”

The 66,000-square-foot HUB Sports Center has about 180,000 people using its sports facility every year. The Spokane Sports Commission estimates that it brings in around $6 million to the surrounding community.

Events like the PNQ are especially lucrative, bringing in an estimated 8,000 athletes, 12,000 spectators and something in the neighborhood of 15,000 overnight stays over the two packed weekends.

“We have a high school summer volleyball league and we have a number of basketball tournaments here,” Program Director Ryan Barbieri said. “We have a large school boys tournament and we have a girls showcase tournament that we’re putting on where we partner with University High School. We’ll use all five of our courts here and there will be some spillover games at U-Hi for that one.”

HUB Executive Director Phil Champlin calls it a “huge, unique building.” It almost became a giant warehouse after its original tenant, Sports USA, went out of business and turned the building over to GARCO Construction.

HUB took over the building in 2007, and Champlin came on board two years later. By the end of 2010 the sports center began operating in the black, and a capital campaign was undertaken to pay off the anonymous donor who bought the building to keep it from being turned into a storage facility.

Champlin recently announced that HUB had received a $350,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to go toward the capital campaign, which has raised 75 percent of its goal of $3.9 million.

“Especially during our busy time, from the start of November through the end of April, we’ve got something going every day and every weekend is booked solid and we have something going here every day from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.,” Atwood said. “We have people call us looking for a facility for some event and they’re shocked that we don’t have any time available at all.”

What’s most impressive is the range of activities the HUB offers – from practice sessions for the Apex Volleyball program to Zumba fitness classes.

There’s a Pre-K Sports Day program that caters to the pre-kindergarten crowd, and there’s the pickleball crowd that includes a 97-year-old competitor.

In between is a program, HUB 360, for at-risk, middle-school-aged kids from the East Valley and Central Valley school districts.

There is a mixed martial arts cage-fight tournament scheduled for April 14, with the Washington State Judo Championships scheduled to begin the next day.

But it’s not all about sports.

“We have a group that comes in and flies model airplanes, so we open the curtains and they use one of our courts for that,” Atwood said. “They have a group of little ones who come, too, and they call them ‘Junior Fliers.’

“One of the events that I really enjoy is one we call ‘Dads ‘n’ Dudes.’ Boys bring in their fathers, grandfathers, uncles – whoever mentors them – and we open up the courts and we have all kinds of activities for them to do together.”

Perhaps the fastest growing sport they offer is the weekly pickleball sessions that run Monday through Thursday, from 12:30 until 2:30 p.m., with 10 a.m.-to-noon sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sunday night sessions from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

“Those games can get a little heated,” Atwood laughed. “So we have a group of pickleball players we call ‘ambassadors’ who help keep things in order.”