Remember playing pingpong in the garage with your family when you were a kid?
Well, this isn’t like that.
Spin Ping Pong, which opens its doors to the public at 9 p.m. May 18, feels more like a nightclub than a pingpong gym, with its brass tub filled with orange (only orange!) pingpong balls, costumed pro players, chain-link curtains, murals and DJ booth. And did we mention that it’s housed in the old Antone’s space on West Fifth Street?
The Spin concept started as a series of pingpong parties in New York City in 2007. “We quickly attracted the most eccentric New Yorkers, along with notable musicians, artists and professional pingpong players,” says co-founder Jonathan Bricklin.
The first Spin opened in 2009 in New York City’s Flatiron district (where a 90-year-old customer now trains regularly with a pro), and the Austin venue marks the club’s seventh incarnation. “Because of the incredible culture of music and art and sports that exist here, it’s an absolute perfect match for us,” Bricklin says.
The 9,000-square-foot club occupies the former Antone’s at 213 West Fifth St. Look closely and you’ll recognize the exposed wooden ceiling beams and concert posters, which cover the rear hallway. Unlike the garage where you played pingpong as a kid, this club will serve cocktails, and the kitchen will turn out flatbreads, tacos and other shareable foods.
Customers can play at any of 14 regulation tables. Spin will host tournament play, private lessons, corporate parties and drop-in recreational play (players younger than 21 are welcome during the day). One employee, armed with a special net-on-the-end-of-a-pole device, patrols the room, collecting stray balls so you don’t have to make the effort to pick them up.
Center court is reserved for what can be described only as pingpong performance art — Friday night shows with pros in costume, demonstrating techniques, challenging customers to return wicked serves and inviting the audience to participate in group games.
“It’s like a sporting show meets Broadway production,” says Ashley Orfus of Spin.
Need some pro tips? Malin Pettersson, 26, a Swedish pro who rotates among Spin’s clubs, can beat you in a match even if she’s using her cellphone as a paddle.
She’ll also demonstrate proper form, which includes standing at arm’s length from the table and facing it squarely, so you can pivot right or left depending on the serve. Pay attention to the tilt of your paddle, too. That will determine how high or low you return the ball back over the net (assuming you actually hit it).
Pettersson, who started playing by standing on a chair at the end of a pingpong table when she was 3, served a few balls my way, and they came so fast across the table that I could barely see them. She slowed down a tad and let me practice fielding them.
The concept meshes well with Austin’s tech culture, where pingpong has traditionally flourished, Orfus says. “We use pingpong as a way to socialize,” she says. “You need more than one person to play, so you automatically connect with somebody.”
Spin Ping Pong
The Austin venue, 213 W. Fifth St., opens Friday; RSVP for the opening party at wearespin.com.
After that, it will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.