Under normal circumstances, Mayor Catherine Pugh would have been on hand to celebrate a completely renovated, 24-lane bowling alley at Shake & Bake in West Baltimore.
In fact, it was Pugh who first made the decision to temporarily close down the family fun center, founded in 1982 by famed Baltimore Colt Glenn “Shake & Bake” Doughty, due to its condition and safety concerns. When it reopened last spring, the community celebrated the return of an area hallmark, a place where families can come after school to gather and enjoy themselves.
Pugh’s name came up several times in the press remarks for the event, but save for a short scrum with ex-officio mayor Jack Young, there was no mention of the growing scandal surrounding the mayor. Remarks were positive—it was as if the government officials in attendance were perfectly content to push the elephant entirely out of the room.
The transition from the Shake & Bake commemoration to peppered questions and TV news microphones awkwardly positioned on Young wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Here was Young both performing mayoral duties and answering questions about the turmoil surrounding the person he has temporarily replaced, the same person who helped oversee the rec center’s transformation.
Politics aside, Shake & Bake received a $1.6 million glow-up, with a shiny new roller rink floor and a bowling alley with all the bells and whistles and rotating disco balls you can imagine. There are two different private party rooms and a tricked-out game room, with single player leather chairs set up to rent out time on game consoles. The room came out of a desire for innovation—it’s an acknowledgment of where kids’ interests lie while also providing a safe and communal place to play.
Doughty, dressed in a blue Shake ‘N Bake letterman jacket, called the renovation “Shake & Bake 2.0.” He recited multiple times what seems to be a mantra the center is running with: “Baltimore’s body and mind destination.” Doughty wants people across the city to visit Pennsylvania Avenue to see what he and the Recreation and Parks Department have dreamed up.
Pam Curtis, who grew up in Sandtown, was at the press event, and marveled at how far it’s come and what it means for the city.
“[Shake & Bake] is needed, it really is needed,” Curtis says. “It definitely did not look like this. This makes you take more pride in your neighborhood. This also promotes family engagement and interaction and wanting to meet new people. This is a firm example of pushing the vision.”
Doughty hopes that this is just the beginning for Shake & Bake. There are several other options being considered to add further improvements. Among them: laser tag and a theater that could serve as an educational tool. Doughty also said that he has invited local and national sports figures to stop by, mentioning Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Ozzie Newsome as potential visitors.
Back when Shake & Bake first opened, it drew huge crowds, and Doughty hopes that with this renovation and as it continues to grow, it can get back to that. But it’s still a bit early, since the newest renovation isn’t even open to the public yet. That will happen with a slow rollout—a Soul Bowl event for ages 21 and up on Saturday, April 6 followed by resuming normal hours Wednesday through Saturday from 4-10 p.m.
For now, the fact that Shake & Bake exists at all is more than enough for the community.
“This is my Super Bowl ring,” says Doughty, referring to the center. “I’m proud of it. It’s helping kids, it’s helping families, it’s showing what we can do in the times we’re in right now. Is this bodaciously awesome or what?”