Shake and Bake Family Fun Center, the 35-year-old roller skating rink, bowling alley and arcade in West Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood, will be shutting down next week to undergo major repairs.
Councilman Eric Costello wrote on Facebook Tuesday that West Baltimore’s one-of-a-kind recreational hub “will be closing down temporarily” (changed from “indefinitely” after several hours). A pre-recorded greeting on Shake and Bake’s answering machine confirms the closure, with doors set to shut Sept. 1.
Costello said in a separate statement Tuesday that the facility “requires significant capital upgrades which simply can’t be completed while the facility is in use.”
Reached by phone, Shake and Bake operator and manager Anthony Williams, Sr. declined to share details about the planned repairs or closure. Costello wrote on Facebook that Williams “has been a stalwart in the Upton community for the last 30 years,” and encouraged locals to turn out this Friday for what will apparently be the center’s last event for the foreseeable future.
A flyer for the occasion, called the “Community Back to School Skate,” indicates the roller skating sesh will run from 5 to 9 p.m. In generous fashion, Shake and Bake will be letting people in for free and offering free school supplies for families, haircuts for boys and manicures for girls, in addition to other giveaways for middle and high schoolers. Skate rental will cost $3.
Shake and Bake got its name from former Baltimore Colt Glenn “Shake and Bake” Doughty. According to the Maryland Historical Society, the retired wide receiver in 1982 purchased a vacant lot at 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue from the city for $1. The site had previously housed Baltimore’s Regent Theater, which was demolished two years earlier.
With a nearly $5 million in development loans from the city, Doughty built a recreational oasis in Upton, complete with a 40-lane bowling alley, a 22,000-square-foot roller skating rink, an arcade, two eateries inside and more. But despite its immediate popularity — more than 10,000 people visited each week when it first opened — Doughty fell behind on payments. He sold the property back to the city in 1985.
Local government has since remained the center’s owner. At one point, the city tried (and failed to obtain public support) to rename it as the Baltimore Neighborhood Recreation Facility; the name was restored. The Shake and Bake has remained popular among locals for many years since, though after the city lost more than $1.6 million during a four-year stint in the mid-90s, officials outsourced management to a private operator.
Williams has worked there for decades, and his private management firm, Kingdom Managed Inc., has been under contract to run the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center since 2011, even though their agreement expired last year. He’s hosted toy drives, fundraisers and countless other community events during his time at the helm.
“Please join me in thanking Anthony…for his tireless support for our youth over the decades and wishing him all the best in his next chapter,” Costello wrote.
Costello said in his subsequent statement that amid the renovations, the city “will be seeking program and management ideas” from members of the public.
“I look forward to working with Mayor Pugh and her team to ensure the facility is opened up as soon as humanly possible,” he said. “When reopened, it will resume offering safe and quality recreational and entertainment opportunities to the surrounding communities, the City, and most importantly our youth.”
The Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development hasn’t responded to a request for comment for more information.
This story has been updated with clarification on the timeframe of Shake and Bake’s impending closure from Councilman Eric Costello.
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