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Pingpong’s new SPiN

Charlie Owen
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO, Colorado

They dubbed it “naked pingpong.” That’ll put a picture in your head.

Jonathan Bricklin, who grew up in Steamboat and lived in Vail for three years, was living in New York City. Two pingpong tables were the centerpiece of his wide-open Tribeca loft apartment; word spread and he was soon hosting full-fledged tournaments. The name was provocative, but most of the time people wore clothes while playing.

The fact remained, people were into pingpong. Really into it.



Which is how SPiN, a chain of trendy pingpong social clubs first in New York, and now in Toronto, Milwaukee and soon in Los Angeles, came to be. Likewise, people wear clothes at SPiN, which is fortunate or unfortunate, depending on who’s playing and your point of view.

Susan Sarandon, yes, that Susan Sarandon, is a co-owner with Bricklin. The pair will be in Vail this week to promote a fundraiser for the Vail Symposium on Thursday and Friday at the Sebastian in Vail.



Sarandon said the actual idea behind SPiN is pretty foolproof.

“It’s one of the few things where little girls can beat their dads and big muscly guys and little geeky guys can hold their own and it cuts across age and gender and body type, so I love that about it,” Sarandon said.

This week, Sarandon (“Bull Durham,” “30 Rock” and a slew of other credits) is the guest of honor. While she won’t be competing in the tournament, she did say she looks forward to seeing who will claim the title of best pingpong player in Vail. The event includes a two-day tournament, professional pingpong player exhibitions, an auction and award ceremony where Sarandon will present the trophy to the winner.



Following trends

The whole idea for the fundraiser was hatched about six months ago. Vail Symposium president and CEO Alby Segall was having lunch with a friend when he said he wanted to do a pingpong tournament to raise money for the Vail Symposium. The friend said he knew one of the owners of SPiN and put Segall in touch with Bricklin in New York. Shortly after that, Segall met up with Bricklin and Sarandon at the New York SPiN to work out the details of the event.

“I tend to follow trends and I noticed that pingpong was becoming more and more popular,” Segall said.

Why not capitalize on the surging cultural popularity of the sport to raise money for the cause? The three brainstormed some ideas for the fundraiser until they came up with the proper format.

“We came up with a fun tournament slash professional exhibition,” Bricklin said. “Susan is going to present the winner of the tournament with the trophy and be there watching.”

Vail, a new home for SPiN?

The Symposium -SPiN event is also a way to gauge the ability of SPiN to find a more permanent home in Vail, Segall said.

“We’re using this as a sort of awareness strategy to see if we can open up a SPiN in Vail,” Segall said. “We’re working on finding a semi-permanent location for SPiN in Vail so in the winter and summer season we can actually open up a SPiN lounge like the one in New York but … in Vail.”

Bricklin confirmed that notion.

“It’s a goal, but it’s not that tangible yet. I think it would work brilliantly in Vail if you could have the right circumstances. … If you could do it seasonally it could be really successful,” Bricklin said. “I think we could pull it off. Pingpong works for everyone, so it definitely would work really well there.”

The power of celebrity

But what is it that has made SPiN so successful? Is it the pingpong, the club setting, the fact that you can drink while playing, listening to music and hanging out with friends?

Segall has one take on it.

“Pingpong is relatively easy,” he said. “You can be a good player or a mediocre player or a poor player and still have fun playing. … It’s a fun game and a fast game and if you play it a lot, you can work up a sweat. So it’s got all the components of simplicity and exercise and fun and it’s very accessible.”

Segall called himself a mediocre player, but that doesn’t detract from his enjoyment of the game, he said.

The club’s popularity stems from a few things, Bricklin said.

“Pingpong is one of the most enjoyable social activities ever developed in any way. … The power first and foremost has to be that pingpong itself is this really fun game that’s always been enjoyed but has never been marketed properly,” Bricklin said. “It’s also an Olympic sport, so on top of being a better social game, it’s also a more complex and intricate game.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Academy Award-winning Sarandon is out there promoting the club, Bricklin said.

“Celebrity is extremely powerful,” Bricklin said. “Susan’s credibility and enthusiasm for it is contagious and inspires other celebrities and the millions of people that like her as an actress.”

All this adds up to much success and is excellent news for the game of pingpong and the future of its mainstream popularity.

“Once you put (the SPiN club) there and there’s music and food and drinking, people really have a good time,” Sarandon said.

And if you’re curious about what the atmosphere and energy of a SPiN club feels like, but don’t want to make the trip to New York to find out, now is your chance to see what the hype is about.

“You’ll be pleasantly surprised and if you enjoy pingpong, you’ll have a great time playing pingpong, and at the end of the day, all it is really is an excuse to drink,” Bricklin said.

Caramie Schnell contributed to this story. Email comments to cschnell

@vaildaily.com.


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