Rare Skee-Ball machines burn in the fire, but the Chicago community comes together to keep the league going

A fire that tore through an Albany Park brewery a week ago also swept away something that couldn’t be replaced: vintage Skee-Ball machines. They were the pride and joy of a little-known league in Chicago.

“I was just in shock. I screamed for my wife…like, ‘Amy, Amy, the machines are on fire,'” Chicago Skee-Ball League founder Mike Fraser said.

When the Twisted Hippo was devastated by fire, Fraser’s dreams burned with him.

“We were just crushed, kind of like, what are you saying, what are you doing, you know?” said longtime member James Schwark.

Inside were three rare Skee-Ball machines, produced by a Wisconsin company, which are no longer in production.

“I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t process. I was very stuck up and didn’t cry until later,” said Fraser, who founded the league in 2011.

“At the end of the day, when you see someone going through hardship, the first thing someone in this league would say is ‘how can I help them? “, Schwark said.

And that’s exactly what they did. Schwark and his wife Sarah started a “GoFundSkee” raising more than $20,000 within days to support Fraser and help him buy new machines.

“It’s easy to do good things for good people. Kind of like what happens, goes around,” Schwark said.

“It was one of the worst weeks and best weeks of my entire life,” Fraser said.


With the finals in play, Glascott’s Saloon in Lincoln Park also stepped up to host the championships. They happen to have two of the vintage machines.

The championships raise funds for the Leukemia Research Foundation.

A new “skee-son” starts in the spring and they are looking for other people who want to have fun. To learn more, click HERE.