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HUB is humming now


Sports center seeing attendance increase after a rough 2010

A year ago, things weren’t looking good for the HUB Sports Center, 19619 E. Cataldo Ave., in Liberty Lake.

Business had been slow for the nonprofit and the board of directors had voted to recommend to the building’s owners that they put it up for sale.

“I can’t afford to sit back and wait for ‘what ifs,’ ” said Executive Director Phil Champlin.

Although it’s still for sale, the HUB is now bustling with activity.

Around 25,000 people walked through the doors in January, whether it was for a gymnastics or wrestling meet, pickleball, soccer, baseball, or a number of other sports or classes.

February was only slightly less successful, with about 24,000 people using the facility. Champlin said that was much improved over February 2010, when about 20,000 people visited.

The bump in business is partly due to greater efforts to attract events, such as the Washington State Folkstyle Wrestling Championship. The group had 12 wrestling mats going at once.

“That was the busiest I’ve seen this place,” Champlin said. “It was wall-to-wall people.”

Dynamic Gymnastics hosted its Flip Fest competition at the HUB. Two Olympic gymnasts, Courtney Kupets and Mohini Bhardwaj, silver medalists from the Athens Olympics in 2004, came to hand out awards.

A local volleyball chapter used the facility on Sundays in February; Saturdays at the HUB are booked with AAU basketball.

This weekend, the Inland Northwest Boxing Association’s amateur championships will be held there, and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will host a dodge ball tournament.

The weather also has helped boost attendance at the facility. When the weather is bad, many outdoor sports need a place to practice inside. The championship football team from Ferris High School, for example, practiced there last year when it was too cold outside. North Central’s baseball team has been practicing at the HUB while its basketball team still has the gym.

Zumba classes have picked up as well. After starting out slow last year, there now are classes five to six times a week.

“It was zero last year,” Champlin said.

Three days a week, a group of seniors plays pickleball at lunchtime. There are also lunchtime pickup basketball games. Tuesday nights feature badminton drop-in games.

“We were so busy December, January and February, I couldn’t justify any drop-in stuff in the evenings,” Champlin said. “All the courts were rented out.”

Champlin has been establishing relationships with local hotels to spread the word about the HUB. He said the organization is eligible for grants from the hotel and motel taxes in the area.

Champlin is optimistic about the future of the HUB. Now that the organization is able to pay its operating expenses, he’d like to get to the point when it can afford to purchase the building, which is owned by W.E. Investments.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

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