In a big city like Chicago many people have likely walked down Clark Street only to notice a Bank of America, Revival Food Hall and the post office, however, tucked amongst these buildings is one of the most popular ping pong locations in Chicago, Killerspin house which opened in 2014.
Since then Killerspin has grown from a place where people in Chicago could come and play whenever they please, to a membership community of approximately 110 members.
Players originally could come in and play simply by purchasing a set of paddles or using their own. However, in December 2016, a new Concierge Member program was formed where players could opt to pay a fee of $365 per year to receive unlimited play, as well as, receive individual or group lessons from elite ping champions. Alternatively, players can also opt to pay a $25 daily rate if they don’t feel they will use the location enough.
Felipe Morita, operations and marketing manager of the location, said the biggest reason the program has grown since he arrived just under a year ago is simply through members spreading the word.
“A lot of people come here because of word of mouth,” Morita said, “They like the environment, they like the players.”
One of the earliest members, and also longest tenured players is current DePaul student and Table Tennis Club President Veer Panchal.
Panchal has been a regular since he was a sophomore in high school and wasted no time joining as a member when the program began.
“I actually started playing competitively when I was pretty much under their wing, they started looking at me a little bit and teaching me how to play and when memberships started here I just knew I had to join,” Panchal said.
Panchal also noted DePaul might consider switching to this location as it could allow the club to receive some memberships and foster friendships amongst the club and members at Killerspin.
One of the benefits of becoming a member is the opportunity to learn from Morita, as well as, five-time Olympian Ilija Lupulesku, or Lupe as he is known to the members.
“My skill level has probably doubled or tripled from the time I have been here because you take lessons from someone who has had like 40 years of experience, he’s been playing a long time Lupe has,” Panchal said.
Not only are members able to receive lessons from former champions like Lupe and Morita, but they also have the opportunity to compete and learn from other players both mentally and physically.
For 72-year old Ron Stevens, a member at the location, ping pong has helped improve his hand eye coordination and reflexes.
“I actually feel younger I really do physically and mentally,” Stevens said, “It’s an amazing thing when you’re playing competitively the development that takes place not just physically, but what is going on in your mind.”
Not only can players work on their craft against other members, but also against a robot that is available for players to use if they don’t have someone to play with.
“We learn to do drills all the time and when the robot is doing the exact same shots as you over and over again,” Panchal said, “You get to practice just so much by doing whatever shot you want it to do for you.”
The opportunity to play against quality competition is certainly a bonus of joining, but the community atmosphere amongst the members keeps players coming back as often as they can.
“They call it Killerspin house for a reason, it is made to be a place where people can gather and hang out, we hold tournaments here and just get a bunch of members to interact with each other,” Panchal said.
This type of community has also allowed players like Stevens to learn about different players’ cultural and religious backgrounds.
“It’s also incredibly diverse ethnically and racially, which is a blessing I value,” Stevens said, “It’s enriching, I’m learning about other cultures, religions in this process as well so it’s a real camaraderie among the group here.”
Killerspin originally made its name in Chicago as a retailer providing paddles, tables, balls, accessories and other items.
Depending on one’s skill level, according to the company website, paddles can range anywhere from $39 for a basic paddle to upwards of $350 for the Stilo7 SVR edition made of carbon fiber and intended for ping pong enthusiasts looking to gain that competitive edge.
According to Morita, Killerspin also offers a variety of packages for companies or groups to rent out anywhere from one table to the entire space.
“If they want to shut down the place just for the event, we’ve held events with Bank of America for more than 200 people,” Morita said.