February 11, 2006 in City

Deal in works to reopen Sports USA

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The founders of Telect Inc. may hold the key to unlocking Sports USA.

Bill and Judi Williams, who started the well-known Liberty Lake telecommunications equipment business, are putting together a deal to purchase the basketball-volleyball complex from building owner Tim Welsh, of Garco Construction.

The deal would preserve the $4.9 million facility, which serves dozens of youth teams from throughout the area and plays a key role in hosting regional tournaments that fill hotels and restaurants.

“We’re trying to work a deal out,” Welsh said. “We really haven’t discussed terms at this point. I know they’re interested.”

Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson praised the Williamses for their support.

“I’m delighted. Bill and Judi have always invested in the community,” Peterson said, also complimenting Welsh on working hard to ensure the facility’s survival.

The complex, off Barker Road, closed in December after a group of investors who leased the space and operated the business filed for bankruptcy protection.

The investor group, led by Kert Carlson, made $1.2 million in improvements to the building in the form of nets, maple flooring and other court features. But the group filed for bankruptcy after the facility failed to generate enough revenue to pay $25,000 to $40,000 in monthly expenses, plus another $20,000 or so for the lease.

Welsh also went out on a limb financially, spending several million dollars on the building and land, which aren’t involved in the bankruptcy.

“I think athletics are very important to kids. I thought he had a good plan,” said Welsh, a father and former volunteer football coach, of his involvement in the sports complex.

Eric Sawyer, executive director of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, is working with Welsh to get Sports USA’s doors reopened in time for the Pacific Northwest Volleyball Qualifier on March 24-26. The tournament is held at several locations and draws about 200 junior girls’ volleyball teams from throughout the region. It’s also a precursor to hosting a larger national event next year.

“We really need Sports USA to allow the qualifier to grow and keep us in good standing in ‘07 for the Open,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said the SRSC and the Spokane Public Facilities District have offered to assist with running the facility and Peterson pledged financial support from the city of Liberty Lake.

But getting the doors reopened is posing challenges because of the bankruptcy.

“That’s in the hands of the bankruptcy judge. If it was up to us we’d do what we could to get it back open (immediately),” Welsh said. Sawyer, who traveled to Olympia with Liberty Lake representatives to ask for state funding to buy the building, said public funding – if it were secured – would be at least a year away.

In the absence of public funding, the Williamses could offer Sports USA its best shot at survival. “Nobody wants it to become just another warehouse,” Sawyer said. “If someone can step up and make it work, great.”


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