Placing a ping pong table in a public park is a social act; it creates a venue for interaction, a place where strangers can rub elbows, chat, and engage in friendly competition. In an urban setting, in particular, a ping pong table can spark conversation and friendships among people, who might otherwise occupy separate social or ethnic spheres. A colorful New York Times story chronicling the rising interest in “open-air Ping Pongery,” offers a glimpse of how a small investment in an outdoor ping pong table can alter the fabric of everyday life in subtle but meaningful ways:
A neighborhood blog called The Lo-Down cited in the piece describes the scene at Gulick Park as a kind of melting pot: “An Estonian woman put on quite an impressive show of skill, as did her female Scottish opponent. Chinese-speakers, Spanish-speakers, African-Americans, Anglophiles and those of Yiddish ancestry (like myself) surrounded the table throughout the afternoon, all joined by a shared love of Ping-Pong.’”
The idea to adapt ping pong tables for outdoor environments may have got its start as a response to Silicon Valley tech companies, such Facebook and Google, who have added ping pong tables to recreational spaces in their playground-like corporate offices. From stimulating concentration and alertness to improving tactical thinking, the benefits of table tennis have been lauded by interior designers and corporate executives alike and go far beyond providing a break from the stresses of the work day.
However the trend began, outdoor table tennis has taken off. Busy tables are found at parks across the country: at Bryant Park and Tompkins Square Park in New York City, at Grant Park in Chicago, at Wymann Park Dell in Baltimore, among others. School administrators are seeing the value of ping pong in outdoor areas, where a new table can be a venue for cooperative, team play and breathe life into a playground or underutilized concrete or asphalt hardscape.
Designs run the gamut, with some concrete tables doubling as skateboard platforms, and high-end architectural pieces showing off concrete terrazzo slabs with copper and glass inlays and power-coated steel nets. Of course, as lovely as they are, many of these designs exceed modest municipal and school park budgets.
At Goric, we offer a range of attractive, yet affordable, polymer concrete models by Maillith that stand up well to rain, sun, heat, and frost, and provide a bounce on par with an indoor competition table. The tables are delivered in sections on a pallet and can be set up, virtually anywhere, on a firm substrate of 16’ by 32’ feet, with simple tools.
The modular design makes it easy to assemble and disassemble as the needs and uses of a space evolve; aluminum nets and other component parts can be easily replaced. The playing surface stands at a height of 30″ (76 cm) and is wheelchair accessible.
Our tables come in green, blue, grey, and a granite green patina, with a matte, non-glare surface that integrates well in a park setting and prevents light reflections that can interfere with outdoor play on a sunny day. Rectangular, round, and “8”-shaped Octo models give designers a diversity of geometric options to strike the right note when specifying a table for a park, school, or playground setting. Experience has shown the tables last several decades.
Another outdoor small ball play option to consider is foosball. We feature polymer concrete tables from Maillith with durable PVC figures and weather resistant surfacing. Featured in several municipal parks, including Campus Martius Park in newly Detroit’s revitalized urban core, foosball tables really do enliven the urban landscape, offering a nice mid-day break from the office or classroom, or a setting for old friends to reconnect reanimate a good-natured rivalry.
Public interest in outdoor table sports is growing and cities are responding in kind. We were heartened, recently, to hear Adrian Benepe, former commissioner of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, suggest ping pong tables could become a focus of capital renovations of larger city playgrounds. Whether or not that effort takes off under new parks leadership, it’s a sign that table tennis, foosball, and other small-ball games are being embraced by decision makers at the highest levels. It’s time for ping pong, often called the world’s second most popular sport after soccer, to make its way outdoors.