Facing an inability to live up to its financial obligations, the Sports USA complex likely will be forced to shut down at the end of the month, leaving numerous youth sports organizations without a place to play.
According to Kert Carlson, founder of the complex, they are falling about $15,000 short of a $25,000 monthly mortgage payment, and without any outside money, will close on Dec. 30.
“We’ve got to find somebody or something to get us a boost or a philanthropist to get involved,” said Carlson, who opened the facility in early 2004.
“We’re trying to see if the community is really behind what we offer. If there’s no community support, we have to close.”
Carlson said he hadn’t seen much initial response to the closing, noting that he sent out 35-40 letters and had only received about five phone calls.
The problem, according to Carlson, is that the facility has only been able to operate at 60 percent capacity since opening.
“We’ve got a state-of-the-art facility and there’s a school that is free or only 12 bucks,” Carlson said. “Why would they use you? The problem with Spokane is everyone’s trying to knock off the next person versus everyone working together and charging the same price.”
Another issue is that with the facility located east of Barker Road along Interstate 90, it isn’t a part of the Spokane Valley or Liberty Lake.
Because of this, Carlson said there isn’t any city support.
“This facility is sitting here, and it would be a great parks and recreation facility,” Carlson said. “The problem is, since it’s not in the city, they won’t support us because there’s no tax dollars.”
After closing, Carlson said that Garco Construction would take over the facility, but it is unclear what they would do with it.
Tim Welsh, the president of Garco, did not return messages left on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, organizations such as AAU Basketball and USA Volleyball, which use the facility, are scrambling to find gyms, most of which are already booked.
Jon Lee, the Evergreen Region director of USA Volleyball, said that with nearly 20 club teams in Spokane, the availability of a complex like Sports USA was a blessing.
“It’s really going to hit us,” Lee said. “It’s a loss of practice gyms and facilities. Vying for school gyms has been very difficult over the years.”
Sports USA was scheduled to host USA Volleyball tournaments and regional qualifiers, which can draw upward of 90 teams to Spokane.
“Those are certainly nine courts that we counted on,” Lee said. “That affects us considerably. There are only a few facilities that are nine courts or more, and they are difficult to find.”
Another group affected by the closure would be the Valley Christian basketball teams, which expected to use the facility for regular-season practices and home games.
Valley Christian recently moved into the old University High School, now known as University Center, but the old U-Hi gym is already being used for other activities and an auxiliary gym has no bleachers.
“This changes our plans drastically,” VC administrator Wes Evans said. “We’ve got eight teams looking for gym time during the week. It’s unfortunate. My heart goes out to Sports USA and other groups in the Valley this affects. It’s a great facility.”
Without it, Valley Christian has started looking at churches, other high school gyms, or even finding portable bleachers for the University Center auxiliary gym.
Otherwise, the school faces the possibility of having to play its entire 2006 schedule on the road.
“That’s our last option,” Evans said. “It’s nice to have a home site.”
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