The Bay Arcade is going out of business next month after at least 70 years as a Balboa Fun Zone fixture.
Known for its prize ticket-churning Skeeball games and ever-clanking air hockey table, the old-fashioned game room is shuttering on Aug. 20 after the building sold and the new owner declined to renew the lease.
Hand-lettered signs taped around the room announce the closure of “our beloved Bay Arcade.”
Manager Jeremy Crawford said people have been constantly asking about the closure.
From behind the prize counter, he explained that the space will be converted to a café and doughnut shop.
“So many generations — three, four generations of memories — are just gonna be wiped away, pretty much,” he said.
Crawford has worked at the arcade for 10 years, but has lived in the Balboa Peninsula area since 1981. He came to the arcade as a child, back when there were more pinball machines.
He’s seen photos of the arcade from 1948, so guesses it’s been around since at least a few years before that.
It shows its age. The rubber Pokereno balls are crisscrossed with crazing from countless trips down the inclines. Zoltar the fortune-teller sees all, through a scratched glass box and over sun-faded accouterments.
But on Friday, children eagerly lined up for Skeeball, then traded in their tickets for bouncy balls and bamboo finger traps or paddle balls and stuffed animals if they were lucky and persistent. Teens squeezed into the photo booth and pulled faces, no selfie sticks required.
Several of the machines are for sale, including the venerable Skeeball alleys ($1,000 for the operational ones, $500 for the others), the yellow ticket crane ($800), and the Pokereno and Lite-a-Line games ($500, sold as pairs). The photo booth is going for $4,000.
Crawford doesn’t know what will become of the simple yet iconic red neon signs, which direct visitors through the harborside and streetside entrances with their Art Deco-esque curves, but said people have asked about those too.
“A lot of locals are upset about the whole thing.”