Ian Robertson and the HUB

By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW

Pastor Ian Robertson was ready for a new challenge. “I’m 70, I’m retired, and I need something to do.”

He wasn’t thinking about joining a bowling league or buying new fishing gear. He didn’t own a rocking chair.

During his professional career he had always reached beyond the churches he pastored and the training jobs he held to serve his community. His pastoral career was behind him, but the call to serve his community was still active.

For the previous six years, in addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Robertson had led the effort that brought Upward Basketball to Spokane, Wash. Playing in four church gymnasiums, 1,200 elementary age boys and girls participated in the program.

Robertson had his eye on a large sports complex that had closed in bankruptcy. “That would be a great fifth location for basketball.” Its 56,000 square feet of space included five basketball courts, or 10 volleyball courts, three studios, exercise rooms, food court and offices.

He had to act fast, knowing a purchase offer was pending that would turn the building into a warehouse. “All those beautiful facilities will be lost to the youth of Spokane!”

Robertson shared his vision with Max Spaulding, member of his former church and owner of a large used auto parts facility. They took $10,000 of their own money to the owners of the complex and made an offer. The price of $3.9 million was agreed upon and escrow was opened. Now the hard work began.

Drawing upon his extensive project management experience, Robertson recruited a board and raised several thousand dollars more in donations. He signed a rental agreement with a youth basketball league and established user fees. He secured a large loan with the promise of enough income to make the monthly payments. He named the complex The HUB, for Home of Upward Basketball. He hired a full-time director, recruited a volunteer staff of coaches and assistants, closed escrow and advertised the re-opening of the center. Hundreds of athletes, young and old, arrived at the facilities.

When the toilets backed up, Robertson pumped out the sewage. When the lot needed cleaning, Robertson pushed a mower through the weeds. When the staff grew weary, Robertson cheered them on.

Then a phone call from his doctor brought disastrous news: “I’ve just studied the results of your checkup. You must get to the hospital immediately!”

Robertson raced home from his vacation in California. Heart surgery was followed by six months of recuperation. During those long weeks of forced bed rest, the question arose in his mind: Would the risky venture flourish without the founder’s guiding hand?

When Robertson got to his feet and returned to the facility, he was gratified by what he found. His freshly installed staff had performed faithfully and well.

Now, eight years after it began, The HUB has recorded more than 1 million visits. City sports leagues and classes for all ages use the facilities. Tournaments draw thousands of athletes and fans from all across the Pacific Northwest. The Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce reports an economic benefit to the community of more than $6 million annually.

This is how the power of one man’s faith and vision, put to work, influences and blesses the lives of thousands. Robertson took Jesus at His word: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these …” — John 14:12 (NIV).

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This story was posted on October 27, 2016.