May 17, 2007 in Voices

ValleyHUB gearing up

By The Spokesman-Review
 

In a few short weeks, Spokane Valley church leaders’ idea to buy the unused Sports USA building has generated a new nonprofit organization, a board of directors, a donated office and a snowballing number of ideas to use the center for youth sports and other activities.

“This has just gathered so much momentum, so fast,” said City Councilman Mike DeVleming who serves on its new board.

“There’s just not enough of these kinds of things available for kids,” he said.

At 67,000 square feet, Sports USA could be set up for 10 volleyball courts or five basketball courts, which DeVleming said are hard to come by in the winter.

The convergence of faith, interchurch cooperation and youth sports has drawn more and more children into programs like Upward Basketball or Upward Soccer in recent years. And many churches are starting to look at the cinder-block box off Barker Road in Liberty Lake with visions of new recreational opportunities for even more kids.

“I think it’s just getting started in terms of possibility,” said the Rev. Brian Prior, long-time rector at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley.

ValleyHUB, as it’s known, could bring together people from local government, schools and churches, he said.

Prior described the amount of ecumenical cooperation among churches on the project so far as “virtually unheard of.”

One of the assets churches bring to the table, he said, is experience raising money for community projects.

Early estimates put the cost to buy the building, equip it and get the balls bouncing at $5 million.

“I think that’s feasible for us to do that,” he said.

A $1 million donation has been promised by an anonymous donor, with formal fundraising kicking off in a couple of weeks, said Valley Nazarene Pastor Ian Robertson.

The Mirabeau Park Hotel has offered the group an office. Robertson said he hopes to set it up next week.

The group has until September to raise 3.9 million to purchase the building, which includes an additional 3.5 acres adjacent to the building. On the vacant land, a children’s play area, batting cages and a skate park are among the possibilities suggested so far.

Grant writing also seeks funds that might be available for things like computers and additional recreation equipment for after-school activities.

Casual discussions with elected officials from Liberty Lake and Spokane County indicate they also are supportive of the project, Robertson said, as have talks with representatives from the Spokane Regional Sports Commission and the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Financial difficulties closed Sports USA in 2005, but it wasn’t for lack of use. Many club sports were forced to find alternative places to play, and Sports Commission officials said reopening the facility could bring regional tournaments to the area.


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