Why are public ping pong installations unsafe to play?
None of the current public ping pong table installations in the city of Vancouver is without objective hazards. Just take a look at the above photo of the Empire Fields Tables on a busy day to see a playing area full of objective hazards. When it comes to permanent safe infrastructure for table tennis, it doesn’t exist in Vancouver. So far, public ping pong tables have been dropped into existing strips of asphalt or concrete “pop-up-style”, much like a ping pong table added to a rec room where the furniture, the walls, ceiling, windows and bric-a-brac are all accepted objective hazards. We can do better when we start to consider ping pong to be a sport and, in doing so, consider the safety of every player from the beginner to the advanced player. Players of all ages and abilities deserve to play on safe ping pong installations within the broad lawns of any given park, where a long hit shot won’t run off into traffic, or a bike lane.
Our mission at Ping Pong In Vancouver is to bring this disparity to the attention of the Vancouver’s park planners, invite them to consider elevating ping pong, table tennis, to the status of any other public sport where safe, standardized playing facilities are the norm.
In this era of COVID-19, indoors options to play ping pong are basically non-existent. Let’s ask our parks planners to step-up and give the idea of safe standard public ping pong in parks some serious thought. Help shift the perception of ping pong from “a post-prandial pastime” played in a six-foot basement to one that recognizes table tennis as a legitimate sport played by millions around the globe. Please give us safe places to play in parks.
There is a safe solution, just look to European cities
A quick trip to the internet reveals the popularity of outdoor table tennis in European parks. The Canadian website, The Outdoor Playbook, (dedicated to thinking outside the classroom and, in the process, transforming Canadian schoolyards into dynamic environments for learning, growing and playing), has this to say about ping pong infrastructure:
Come on Vancouver, we can do this, too!
In 2009, after recognizing the popularity of public table tennis facilities in China and Europe, Table Tennis England in partnership with Sport England, installed 47 ping pong tables in 26 London parks. From their website: “The project was a success. The tables were quickly adopted by the communities they were placed in.” The article lists a number of key benefits for organisations who have installed outdoor table tennis tables.
What about Vancouver? Can we do the same as London? Yes, we can! In fact, back in 2017 there was a modest move by Vancouver Parks and Recreation to embrace public ping pong with the installation of three tables at Empire Fields Park. Shortly after the tables opened, an article in the Globe and Mail by Frances Bula, titled “Table tennis emerges as unlikely urban trend in Vancouver” heralded this new trend. But the momentum towards embracing public ping pong was short lived. No other installations were built in parks. Since then, pop-up ping pong tables have been added to existing public spaces but no sustained attempt has been made by city planners to take table tennis seriously as a sport and create safe playing facilities within green spaces as London and Berlin have done. Playing ping pong in any of the ping pong table-equipped parks of London or Berlin is a joy with no worries about safety. In these big cities tables are safely situated within designated playing “courts” surrounded by grassy areas. Here your ball won’t roll into a busy street, and you won’t collide with someone walking through your playing area. Surely, the safety of players should be the top consideration.
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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 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.
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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.
The three steel tables at Empire Fields, in the shadow of Vancouver’s beloved wooden roller coaster offer the penultimate outdoor table tennis – ping pong – experience in Vancouver. For the breathtaking setting alone, this is the #1 place for free outdoor ping pong. Big open sky, breathtaking mountain views, an historic setting where the tables are nestled between the one of north America’s last remaining vintage roller coasters and the track where the first sub-four minute mile was won. The Beatles played mere metres from where today, right now, you can play on melodious metal tables…
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.