A Brief Introduction…
The three steel tables at Vancouver Park Board’s Empire Fields, in the shadow of Vancouver’s beloved roller coaster, offer the “best” outdoor table tennis – ping pong – experience in Vancouver. For the setting alone, this is a great place for free outdoor ping pong. Sure, we know that you can count on one hand the number of permanent public outdoor ping pong tables in Vancouver, but the big open sky, breathtaking mountain views, tables nestled between the one of north America’s last remaining wooden roller coasters and the spot where the first sub-four minute mile was won, makes this setting unique.
Ping Pong In Vancouver's Evaluation
The Beatles played less than 50 metres from where today, right now, you can play on ping pong on “melodious” steel tables. We are referring to the many different sounds the ball makes when hitting the steel table and net at varying speeds and angles. These are great tables despite being painted acid green. The north-most table is a little scored along one side from skateboarders; and chipped paint on the playing surfaces will result in some unusual bounces. The table closest to the volleyball area will likely have to be cleared of sand before playing.
Empire Fields Tables would be the best place to play outdoor ping pong in Vancouver were it not for how the tables have been placed: triangulated without too much thought for the player’s experience between a sand volleyball court, a parkour area and some workout stations. Unlike Stonehenge Tables at Concord Pacific Community Park, where the players have a safe dedicated space to play, Empire Fields Tables has the feel of playing in a walking thoroughfare, with players having to be alert at all times for toddlers underfoot, speeding volleyballs, and entire families wandering through your court mid-rally. Courtesy towards happy wanderers is de riguer, as is the understanding that this is a design issue and no fault of pedestrians. The park designers clearly have little to no experience playing table tennis as a sport. There’s been no attempt to mark the playing area around each table with some simple painted lines on the asphalt, but it would be a good idea. Painted lines would indicate to people walking through that this is a table tennis playing area, and might reduce the chances of a collision. Signs are up behind the table tennis tables in the parkour area telling people that the parkour area is not a play area. The same kind of warning signs should be installed in the ping pong area.
Originally we claimed that Empire Fields Tables, set on the edge of a large open park, is not sheltered from wind. We even went so far as to say that Vancouver’s famous wooden rollercoaster, looming immediately to the west, would not act as a buffer to strong westerlies. But we were wrong. The strong cold westerly winds I experienced today while riding my bike to Empire Fields were markedly reduced at the level of the tables, presumably by the roller coaster. With no infrastructure buffering southerly and easterly winds, it’s different story. In general, it’s best to play here on days when the wind is minimal to avoid the added dimension the wind adds to the ball’s trajectory and speed over the time and distance of any given shot. To play well here on a windy day is to be the player hitting into the wind. That player can hit and loop hard with abandon. The headwind drives the ball down towards the table making it actually hard to miss. Fun times. Fun times.
As of the writing of this post, February 11, 2021, this author, an editor at Ping Pong In Vancouver, has, since September 2020, with his bon homme in table tennis Bobbie St. John-Sondors, played approximately 100 hours on the north-most of the three tables at Empire Fields and never once did we have to wait for our home table. Of course, this will all change once word gets out about the Empire Fields Tables, a spectacular place to play, all things considered. Our initial rating for the Busy-ness factor is set at 30%.
Update: February 27. The competition to get a table has really heated up. For the past week or so, the tables have been really busy from around 11am till about 3pm. In addition to the smattering of regular users, a group of about 10 retired people has discovered the tables. Bringing lunches, they tend to stay for 2-3 hours but, on two occasions, they were also quick to give up one of the three tables when we arrived to play. The bottom line: expect these tables to be busy any time it’s not raining or too windy. We’ve bumped up the daytime busy-ness factor to 70% with this update.
Updated: June 14, 2022 – Now that the COVID pandemic has lessened, and people have more recreation options, the tables at Empire Fields are not nearly as busy as they were 14 months ago. As such, we have reduced the Busy-ness factor rating back to 30%.
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Where other private table tennis clubs we’ve visited cater to members, the North Shore Table Tennis (NSTTC) is the most integrated into the community through affiliations, outreach programs, classes for beginner and intermediate players of all ages, classes and programs for players with Parkinson’s and other disabilities. This an organized table tennis club and operated like a well-conceived business, and the online accolades from many sources are the proof. We’ve awarded the NSTTC twin laurels: Best Organized Club, and Most Inclusive Club
Good-bye Vancouver Parks and Recreation! We’ve moved on to work with the Vancouver School Board, and specifically Windermere Secondary School, to fundraise and help plan Vancouver’s first dedicated outdoor table tennis court. The proposed court has the support of Windermere PE Department Head Brad White, the visionary behind the Windermere Community Fitness Park, phase one of which was completed in July of 2022. In Brad White’s opinion, it was a no-brainer to see that the remaining undeveloped strip of the new fitness park would be a perfect fit for a table tennis court, the first of its kind in Vancouver but common within the big cities of Asia and Europe.
It’s great to see examples outside of Vancouver of table tennis tables safely located within the leafy green confines of parks. This latest discovery is located in Moody Park in New Westminster, and this past September when the Ping Pong In Vancouver crew checked out the two tables nestled under the canopy of big trees, we found a small community of players who meet to play nearly every day.
Someone recently contacted PingPongInVancouver.com to tell us about a public outdoor table tennis table in North Vancouver near First and Lonsdale. We don’t normally include tables in municipalities other than Vancouver unless the installation is an example of what was done right (i.e. Edmonds Tables in Burnaby) or what was done wrong. An initial glance of this installation (via Google street view) showed what appeared to be an example of where NOT to put in a public ping pong table. We hopped on our bikes on a fine summer afternoon to see for ourselves what a dangerously placed table looks like…
While this table tennis table installation is in Burnaby, it’s worth mentioning because, 1) it is a table tennis installation in a park; and 2) it’s a table tennis installation added next to existing tennis courts in a recent park redevelopment. The Edmonds Park Tables are the closest local example of a municipality adding table tennis infrastructure to an existing park. We ask: we can’t this be done in Vancouver?
Since the launch of Ping Pong In Vancouver, we’ve searched for a local table tennis gear store we could promote and send readers to who want to buy brand name entry-level ping pong gear at a good price. We contacted all the big players nationally as well as a few local stores, all of whom ignored our offer for free advertising. Too good to be true, we suppose. But we found a tiny gem of a shop at Renfrew Street and First Avenue, and to make things even more auspicious, the shop’s about one mile from the best outdoor ping pong tables in town, Empire Fields.
Ping Pong In Vancouver has finally created a players directory, one of the three main goals we set out to accomplish when we launched the website. We list places to play table tennis and we advocate for ping pong infrastructure in Vancouver parks (although all of our efforts so far to connect with Vancouver Parks planners has been completely ignored). Now we connect ping pong players with partners!
The Vancouver Table Tennis Club (VTTC) bills itself as “one of the best table tennis club in the Greater Vancouver area”. This is an understatement. In terms of the level of play, this is where elite players show their stuff. The VTTC offers high quality tournament-level tables in a comfortable, well-lit playing environment including a wooden gym-style floor.
The GVTTC or Greater Vancouver Table Tennis Club is technically in Burnaby but since there are so few clubs in Vancouver, we felt this venue at Hastings Street and Sperling Avenue should be included. The club, founded in 2019 by Wilson Peng Zhang who is also the head coach, bills itself as “Neighbourhood Table Tennis Club” and it seems to be an accurate claim.
The Vancouver Rotary Club recently unveiled a ping pong table at Kits Beach. Situated behind the buildings along the main promenade of the beach, surrounded by trees and grass, the ping pong table itself is great. It’s got a beautifully finished aggregate concrete top yielding a superb bounce, a fine art-quality metal net, a sturdy, immovable concrete base…but there’s real danger underfoot, literally.
The Orchard Commons Tables are excellent aggregate stone tables with a surface more like 400 grit sandpaper than polished marble. Does it affect the ball? You be the judge when you visit. The ping pong tables are centred in a playing area that is… well, a pit, basically. This pit consists of a playing surface of undulating gravel that has a deepish hole at each end of both tables, a testament to the grinding duels that must have occurred here…
In the heart of downtown, the Oxford Place Tables is a peaceful ping pong oasis. Two tables are positioned on a small shady plaza just far enough away from busy Hastings Street. Pedestrian traffic is minimal, and the playing area is ample and without any significant objective hazards. Ball containment is pretty good with walls and low barriers in most directions. This is a very nice place to play!
Ping Pong In Vancouver advocates for public table tennis. Our goal is to bring safe, permanent public ping pong installations to Vancouver’s many parks. There are a lot of ping pong players out there who’d love to play their fave sport outside within the safety of a park. Our main problem so far has been trying to get the attention of city officials and bureaucrats. The people who make decisions. We have pursued the recommended routes of communication over the past 4 weeks, since the launch of this website, but so far our efforts have been unsuccessful…
Ping pong is actually a sport. The sport is table tennis. It is the second most popular sport on earth. Players begin by playing ping pong, but as skills sharpen, ping pong players grow into table tennis players, and table tennis players need room to play the sport safely.
From Google: Cocktails, craft draft beer & snacks offered in a hip, upbeat space with Ping-Pong tables & games. The Back And Forth Bar has 6 ping pong tables for recreational and serious players, board games (Cards of Humanity, Jenga, Checkers, What the Meme), a TV dedicated to Nintendo Classic, beer and wine on tap, a small selection of spirits, snacks and friendly staff who want to make you feel at home in comfortable surroundings. Play and hang out!
We ask you where you’d like to see ping pong tables in a park near you. Our goal is one hundred surveys. If you love the sport of table tennis and you want to play on safe, permanent, outdoor ping pong installations, complete the quick anonymous survey now. Add your voice to the chorus of table tennis players who are asking for the opportunity to play our beloved sport safely outdoors.
Ping pong players playing on any of the public ping pong installations we’ve reviewed on this website face objective hazards. Public ping pong tables are currently offered as “afterthoughts”, haphazardly placed, without much regard to a player’s safety, in busy pedestrian areas around the city. In Vancouver, there are no ping pong tables situated in safely within the grassy regions of a park as in the standard in the UK and Germany. Ping pong players deserve for no less than the safety considerations afforded our sister sport, tennis.
Besides becoming a go-to listing for places to play ping pong in Vancouver, we want to be a voice for promoting public ping pong in Vancouver. Specifically, we would like to see ping pong installations in Vancouver parks consisting of a slab of asphalt or concrete with a table in the middle, surrounded by a safety barrier of lawn, a recreational installation very common in European parks from Derbyshire to Berlin
From the film’s description: “In the middle of New York City, tucked away in the corner of Bryant Park, sit two outdoor ping pong tables where anyone is free to play. Young or old, rich or homeless, it doesn’t matter. During the day, the park provides paddles and balls, but after 7pm the regulars show up, armed with their own. Every night they come together to play each other and battle the elements, playing in the wind, rain and even snow. And out of this shared love of the game, a bond was formed between an unlikely group of people. Filmmaker Jon Bunning profiles the many lives these tables have touched, including the former gangbanger who helped put them there.”
All things considered, this is a nice spot for playing ping pong. And a nice gesture by the city to place public ping pong tables this close to the corridors of power. It gives a ping pong fanatic hope that public ping pong is within the purview of city officials who need only to look out their north windows and gaze down onto the plaza, where two tables, one great, the other so-so, become a momentary focal point for joy, exercise and friendship…
Two of the four weather-sheltered public ping pong tables in Vancouver are located under the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge. The other two are under the north end of the bridge. The Cambie Bridge South Tables, like the tables under the north end of the bridge, are the German-made Tiger Ping Pong Plaza model: a great design and a lively bounce. Situated among picnic tables in the middle of a slightly cambered pedestrian plaza, there’s enough room to play safely. Keep in mind the several objective hazards like the boulder field about 15 feet behind the east side of the table, and the roadway and bike lane just a few feet from the tables. Some may call this unsafe; we call it multi-tasking.
There are two excellent table tennis tables sheltered from the weather under the Cambie Street Bridge on the north side. Like the pair on the south side of the bridge, these tables are the Tiger Ping Pong “Plaza” model, and they are positioned on the brick plaza under the infrastructure of the bridge in an east to west orientation. One ping pong table is a bit better positioned; that is, sheltered better from the rain, but both tables are club-quality outdoor tables and on a fine day this location, with all of the recreational activity going on around, is inspirational and will bring out your best game.
This funky ping pong table is located at the Vernon-Adanac Plaza, a blocked-off section of Vernon Drive, right where the Adanac-Union bike route takes a wee jog north one block from Union Street onto Adanac Street. It’s an interesting location for a ping pong table to say the least, and it’s easy to see the hipster connotation in locating the table on a bike route…
Unlike parks in other western countries like Germany, parks in Vancouver, despite the vast unused lawns available, do not contain table tennis playing areas by default. In fact, not a single ping pong table installation exists within a Vancouver park. We are late to the game when compared to our European friends. But what potential we have given our numerous parks for ping pong installations within the safety of a public lawned area. Ping Pong In Vancouver has written this post to help define a standard for a table tennis playing area within any public park.
Stonehenge Tables, are three tables in the Concord Pacific play area in the expanse of asphalt north of Science World. Named for the large arranged stones embedded in the grassy knoll immediately east of the tables, Stonehenge Tables offer the best of outdoor table tennis in Vancouver. These are stone tables with a great bounce. The area behind both sides of the tables is bounded by a low continuous concrete wall serving as a long bench, providing a stopper for most balls that pass your opponent.