Table tennis originated in Britain in the late 1800s and has long been a hallmark of far Eastern cultures where it is broadcast on television year-round. The sport is enjoying a period of growth since its official recognition as an Olympic sport at the 1988 summer games in Seoul, Korea.

In Philadelphia, the history of table tennis clubs goes back to the 1940s, according to promoter Marvin Plevinsky of Northeast Philadelphia, who stated "there were so many clubs in the area in the last 40 or 50 years."

A club in East Falls has just opened a new venue on the second level of One Falls Center at 3300 Henry Avenue, with 8 brand new tables and a large, clean, well-lit space renovated by volunteers. Table tennis player Ken Weinstein, developer, and owner of the Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy, helped spearhead the project when the club needed to move from its previous home at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center. "We put two months of sweat and hard labor" into the transformation of office space at the former MCP Hospital, Weinstein said.

That hard work paid off on opening night Monday as tables were filled and spectators eagerly awaited a chance to play.

Lynn Liu, a self-identified novice with an unorthodox paddle grip, said she is getting back into the sport again after learning to play as a youngster even though she "never got improvement."

Marc Brockington became involved with the sport growing up in the Nicetown Boys Club, where he said "I was not playing table tennis, it was ping-pong back and forth, and then as I got better and got a different exposure I started playing table tennis." So what's the difference? According to Marc it's all in the body language. He spent several minutes doing calisthenics before warming up slowly with a stranger at a table, but was popping and spinning the ball at high speed, lunging and sweating as they began to keep score.

A diverse mix of people of all ages populated the club, some preparing for internationally regulated tournament play, and others just out for an evening of friendly competition. Regardless of their skill level they all shared smiles, swapped tables and appeared to be enjoying the new space.

"That's what's incredible about the table tennis community," Weinstein explained, "it's people of all races, backgrounds, ages, all abilities, that have come together here to play."

The Trolley Car Table Tennis club is located at the Falls Center, 3300 Henry Avenue in East Falls, 2nd level, and is open 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Members can pay monthly or annually, and the club is open to the public for drop-in play.


For NewsWorks