Missoula’s Hub Family Entertainment Center Closes

Alexander Blaide, Reporter

     “As far as I know we’re still open” is what we had to tell people who called or asked. They all saw the same Facebook post saying that The Hub Family Entertainment Center would be closing. That announcement was never official and came from the radio station, 96.3 The Blaze. The evidence presented was a listing from Missoula real estate agent, Katie Ward, who was contacted for this piece. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given much information, only that the potential selling was 45 days away, the middle of October. On Sept. 13, it was officially announced that the Hub would be closed after nearly 10 years. As a former employee, I was hired at the beginning of the end.

The text I and all the other employees received on the morning of Sep. 13.

     Shortly after my birthday, I got a call from Chris Whilborg who was the head manager. I was in class at the time and didn’t see the voicemail he left until after school got out. He asked me to come down for an interview. After some coordination and a brief interview, I was hired as a part time Hub Employee in February 2021. I quickly adapted to working there and did just about everything: from handing out prizes to running games of laser tag. In March, I met Heidi Feeney, a very nice woman who was the owner of The Hub. I learned that she lives in California and also runs a funeral home. The Hub seemed to be doing well and I thought I would have the job for a while, despite my theater endeavors, which did place a strain on scheduling at times. Those issues were always cleared, or a compromise would be met.

     In early April, the Pit Stop Kitchen closed on weekdays because people weren’t ordering enough to justify keeping it open. The managers ran the kitchen and stopped making food for the public. Employees could order food, and pizza was still provided for paying birthday parties. On weekends, the kitchen was up and running like normal. After a month of that, in May, the kitchen was closed permanently. We hired a former chef to run the kitchen in May, but at that point, too much profit had been lost and he was later relegated to the go-kart track. The summer came and went and otherwise, the place was still working just as it had when I was hired almost four months earlier. 

     On Aug. 27, my mom texted me an article. It was an opinion piece from 96.3 The Blaze about The Hub being rumored to close.

This was how it looked when I came in to grab my check . Off to the side, not pictured, were boxes of prizes, bags of chips, and everything else that would have been back there.

Unfortunately, the thought had crossed my mind because of how difficult it was to schedule things, not only for myself, but for everyone else. If one person was gone, it threw off the schedule. The next morning, Aug. 28, Whilborg had a meeting with the staff, confirming the rumor and apologizing for how we found out and how he knew almost a month before us employees did. He told us how we were supposed to respond to questions: “As far as we know, we’re still open.” There was a sort of macabre feeling about the place as employees joked about the eventual closing as a way of coping. The analogy I described to my family was being able to see the writing on the wall and not being able to read.

     On Sept. 13, Feeney texted and informed all employees that the closing went through and that was the end of it. I worked the Sunday right before and expected the place to be open a bit longer. I found out that I was clearly incorrect. Hopefully, a similar place opens soon for all Missoulians.