HUB turns 5, turning the corner
By Josh Johnson
When Phil Champlin took the reins of the HUB Sports Center early in 2010, the building the nonprofit leased was about to go back up for sale, and the cities of Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley were being courted as potential owners.
Built as Sports USA in 2004, the facility never was able to find its footing and eventually closed down. In 2007, a group of community leaders led by a local pastor, Ian Robertson, came in to give it another shot, but efforts to cover operating expenses, let alone a rent and eventual purchase of the building, were a constant struggle.
"When I came in, the charge was, ‘We want this to be a full-time facility. You've got six months to a year to let us know, ‘Can it work? Is it viable?'" Champlin said.
He immediately set out to fill the facility with events, working with the board to obtain its commitment to remain open until summer 2011 to see what he could book. With that guarantee the doors would be open came growth, Champlin said.
"Because the sales pitch of, ‘Hey bring your event here and we may or may not be here in three or four months when you want to have you event,' only gets me so far," he said, adding lining up sponsors was difficult for the same reason.
"October of 2010 was the last time we got a capital infusion from our board," Champlin said. "Since October 2010, we've been self sustaining. I'm very proud of that, and very appreciative to the board. There again, that's another piece of the puzzle that enabled us to get here today. We had some really core people who believed in what we do and what the potential of this place is."
Operating in the black has caused Champlin's relatively brief time with the HUB to rapidly shift through different mindsets.
"My tenure (starting out), it was survival," he recalled. "How do we keep the lights on and the doors open? OK, now we have that dialed in, so what else can we do? So we started to run some of our own programs where we can do a tournament or a clinic or a league and try to fill in some of the gaps. Now, we are getting to do some outreach and have some kids on scholarship to spring break camp or summer camp. ... To be on solid footing that we can reach out, that's my heart and the board's heart of what their overall vision is for this place."
Champlin said these types of events help attract more sponsors and partners to feed a growing economic engine.
"We're not making money hand over fist, but we're operating in the black, starting to be able to do outreach, and we want to do more," he said.
One of those outreach pieces launching next month is called HUB 360, an after-school program aimed initially at Greenacres Middle School students. The program provides a snack, mentoring, teaching and a physical activity from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
HUB 360 is being coordinated with the Central Valley School District, and Superintendent Ben Small said the district's location of its bus garage next door makes it easy to transport eligible students directly to the HUB after school.
"The one thing that we're seeing is that kids who are actively involved in their community, whether through after-school programs or youth sports, tend to do better," said Small, who recently joined the HUB's board of directors. "I think the HUB is a facility that, when utilized to tis fullest, can really give back to this community, and HUB 360 is another one of those opportunities we believe aligns with our mission and vision of providing services to children and building community."
Champlin said interested youth should speak to their school counselor, and volunteers who want to share a skill or mentor students are encouraged to contact him at 927-0602.
Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson remembers the original vision of the facility, and while he has seen it struggle, he credits Champlin with bringing the HUB to a place where its future is better secure as an asset to Liberty Lake and surrounding communities.
"Phil Champlin, I think, has really, really brought that place to almost a full boil," Peterson said. "They are getting their issues solved and have solid footing underneath them."
He said the events the HUB attracts support hotels and help drive the local economy.
Champlin said the HUB is now secure in its lease, but a future capital campaign to purchase the facility is likely. And he still dreams of the day when surrounding lots could be turned to ballfields, giving the facility even more year-round activity.
"We want the HUB to be a permanent resource for this community, not something that people are worried about or wondering, ‘Well, how long are they going to be here?'" he said. "You all are invited to our 10-year anniversary. Put it on your calendar now. We'll be here."