The Dark Ages
For the residents of Gainesville, Table Tennis was once limited to students at University of Florida through the UF Student Fitness and Recreation Center and Santa Fe College Students through the campus game room. UF Alumni, faculty, and sponsored guests could participate in Table Tennis at the UF Student Fitness & Recreation Center, however, they would swallow steep admission fees. The Santa Fe College game room was exclusive to Students and Faculty. There were also a handful of apartment complexes with tables reserved for tenants and their guests.
The only options available to the general public were the Reitz Union game room and Palominos. At Reitz Union, the facility’s two tables were notoriously busy during peak hours, being shared with students and clubs with black lights on Fridays and Sundays. At Palominos, the sports bar had but one table in below average condition, poor lighting, and loud music in a bar environment. In other words, anyone who was not a student had to settle for playing strangers in crowded areas utilizing mediocre equipment.
The Gainesville Table Tennis Community began in April 2016. We started unofficially in February 2015 as a small group of friends that would meet at Palominos on Tuesdays, at each other's houses, occasionally taking road trips for USATT Tournments. While playing among ourselves was comfortable, we knew that it would be even more fun meeting new people. Within months of starting, our membership base easily exceeded the number of venues in Gainesville. Ironically, this newfound popularity presented a unique set of challenges.
About the Founder
Jen-Sung Tan is a student, self-employed entrepreneur, Department of Defense contractor, FGI Industries owner, stock and real estate investor. He has over five years of experience in market research, retail sales, business operations management, and bookkeeping. He is a licensed business owner, certified reseller, and supporter of eSCO Processing and Recycling LLC, a full-service electronics recycling and asset recovery firm with a zero electronic waste landfill policy.
"Our mission is to promote Table Tennis by making the sport available to everyone in the local community."
The lack of facilities was particularly problematic because we wanted Table Tennis to be available to everyone. In life, whenever all options are poor, the best solution is to find your own. Thus, our goal became creating a place where all enthusiasts could share the sport that we loved. In August, our search ended when Baptist Collegiate Ministries offered to sponsor our Sunday Bi-weekly Practice. Once the agreement was official, the Gainesville Table Tennis Community became the first Table Tennis club in Gainesville available to the general public.