Ping Pong Toronto

Will ping pong be the next big trend in Toronto bars?

It seems the game of ping pong is starting to lose its basement-recluse reputation. Yes, what once seemed reserved for unathletic kids with braces and their octogenarian grandparents is now conspicuously making its way onto Toronto's bar scene. And with the news that Toronto is set to get its very own SPiN ping pong club on King Street sometime this summer, the game seems to be more mainstream than ever.

The Ballroom is one downtown Toronto spot that has picked up on the trend, opening with a ping pong lounge alongside its nine lanes of bowling. "I had a ping pong table in my basement as a kid and I loved it," co-owner Thanos Tripi tells me. "It's one of those nostalgic things."

Tripi decided to include ping pong in his plans for The Ballroom after doing some traveling and meeting with the owners of SPiN in New York, seeing the popularity of the game firsthand. "The Ballroom is an activity centre; there's bowling, darts, arcade games--it's a place where people can do everything. Ping pong is another fun game that's interactive."

That interaction is the glory of the game, touted by Andrew Gordon, who, along with partners Jonathan Bricklin and Franck Raharinosy, opened the first SPiN club in New York. "It's the perfect first date," he says. "You actually get to interact with the person, you get to face them. Plus, men and women are very evenly matched."

The trio opened the New York club in 2009 after their private ping pong parties outgrew their old space. "I we think tapped into something that was brewing a long time," Gordon says. "It's something that people have in their basements, in their garages, and we just thought we needed to put it in a new environment."

But now it seems ping pong is encroaching on another bar game's space: billiards. Does this mean the creepy bar-hog-pool-shark will soon be a thing of the past?

"Billiards was really big in the 80's," Gordon says. "But I think ping pong is the bar sport of the future."

"Pool was a game based around smoking," Jonathan Bricklin of SPiN adds. "When the smoking ban came into effect, the game sort of went dead. Ping pong is healthy and active. It goes along with the mindset change."

"It's incredibly social," Gordon says. "People love to gather around and watch. They enjoy hovering around the table."

That ping pong community is already developing at Nyood in Toronto. "We started it as a joint fashion show and ping pong event," says fashion show director Dyane Campbell, "but it just took off." Now Nyood hosts its Table Tennis Series Party the first Tuesday of every month.

"Toronto can sometimes be hard to meet people because everyone's in a group," Campbell says. "But those groups start talking while they're watching their friends play."

"It's amazing," she continues. "Everyone gets involved. I've worked in bars on King where everyone looks the same. This is a totally different universe. You'll see a girl in heels in a clubbing outfit play a Queen West kid in skinny jeans and Keds."

According to Campbell the event has totally taken off. "The place is packed and everyone's having a great time," she says. So, should we trade in our pool cues for ping pong rackets?

Photo by connorsurdi.com on Flickr


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