Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh on Friday reopened the newly renovated Shake & Bake Family Fun Center after closing the popular recreational facility last year for repairs and forcing out its longtime operator.
“The Bake is back!” announced Baltimore’s Recreation and Parks Director Reginald Moore at a Friday news conference at the facility.
City officials said last summer they were closing the iconic center — which has served children for decades on Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore — indefinitely to repair the heating and air-conditioning systems, among other work.
Pugh said she was “shocked” at the condition of the center when she walked through it last year.
“Mediocrity is just not acceptable,” the Democrat said Friday, adding that her decision was met with community backlash. “This was below mediocrity. When I shut it down you would have thought I shut down heaven. … When I shut it down my phone blew up like a fire engine.”
The nearly $300,000 upgrade to the facility improved the floors, lights, roof, kitchen and heating system, Moore said. A second phase of work is being done on the lower level at the center.
“We’re going to fix the bowling alley,” Pugh said. “We’re working on it now.”
Founded by former Baltimore Colt Glenn “Shake and Bake” Doughty in 1983, the center features 40 bowling lanes and a disco roller skating rink. It has encountered financial troubles over the years but has recovered repeatedly and served more than 1 million people.
“When I come in here and I feel the energy … there’s something special going on,” said Doughty, who returned to Baltimore for the reopening. “Shake and Bake is turning the corner and it’s the new Shake and Bake.”
Anthony Williams Sr., the longtime operator of the center, told The Baltimore Sun last year that city officials were unfairly forcing him out.
“That was her choice,” he said Friday of Pugh. “I’ve learned to live with it and move on. I’m just happy it’s open for the community. I wish them the best.”
Moore said the center will now be operated by city employees. He said he expects it to be a profitable enterprise.
“We feel it will be a revenue generator,” Moore said.
He said officials were open to renting out the facility for youth events — such as children’s birthday parties — but that the concerts and adult-oriented parties that were held there in the past would no longer be a focus.
City Council Vice President Sharon Middleton said she almost teared up walking into the center Friday.
“What hope this is bringing back to the community, to the city,” she said.
Jamaya Moore, who lives in Northwest Baltimore and skates at the center, attended the reopening. She said she’s noticed a big improvement.
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“It’s brighter. It feels better,” she said. “I grew up coming to Shake and Bake. To be here now and see it updated, it’s wonderful.”