The bar-restaurant, which dates to the 1960s, had become a full-time card room before going out of business in 2003. Since reopening in 2006, the Sports Center has been a key player in downtown Yakima’s post-mall cultural renaissance. Upon reopening, it featured live music virtually every weekend for the first few years and it gave hip, young Yakima a place to congregate downtown back when there wasn’t really anywhere else. And, while several other spots competed for that market share over the intervening decade and a half, the Sports Center, with its instantly recognizable rotating neon duck-hunter sign, remained one of the primary see-and-be-seen spots for the city’s cool crowd.
The Sports Center became a focal point of the local hops scene. Its reputation among visiting brewers during the annual fall hop harvest meant the place would be crawling with hop industry and beer industry types every September and October. They would discover, as locals did back in 2006 or 2007, that the Sports Center had the best qualities of a dive bar — the lack of airs, the come-as-you-are sense of welcome — combined with top-shelf food and drink.
When former co-owner’s confirmed that they would not reopen the restaurant, which had been closed off and on since the start of the pandemic as it was no longer financially viable to do so. The new ownership group said that after the previous owner decided not to reopen, the building’s owners reached out to his restaurant group, which decided to open a new restaurant in the space.
It turns out that Gus, the famed neon rotating duck hunter sign at the Yakima Sports Center, isn’t going anywhere. Instead, he’s found a namesake, Gus’s Pizza at The Sports Center.