8 February 2023

'Phenomenal' growth of table tennis stretches Canberra facilities to the limit

| Tim Gavel
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The ACT Table Tennis Centre, Kingston. Photo: Supplied.

Action at the ACT Table Tennis Centre in Kingston. Photo: Supplied.

To suggest Canberra is struggling with facilities to cater for indoor sports is a significant understatement.

Basketball and futsal sports organisations have campaigned for many years about the lack of indoor facilities in the ACT. In the case of basketball, it has resulted in players being turned away due to the lack of courts.

Now you can add table tennis to the list of sports struggling to respond to a growth surge, correlating with increased population in the Territory.

“Our growth in juniors is phenomenal, it has doubled every year for the past three years,” says Table Tennis ACT president Heather Tomlinson.

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The number of registered members is now more than 450, which is a record high.

Table Tennis ACT employed a full-time coach last year and this has resulted in a significant uplift in both the standard of the sport and also numbers wanting to play.

Facilities are inadequate to meet current demand, let alone contemplating any future growth.

The association has used school facilities but the lack of space for storage has been one of the hurdles.

Table tennis in Canberra is currently played on five to eight tables at the former Eastlake Football Club situated at the side of Kingston Oval.

ACT Table Tennis Centre, Kingston. Photo: Supplied.

ACT Table Tennis Centre, Kingston. Photo: Supplied.

Table Tennis ACT has expanded and rebuilt the facility but it still falls short of what’s required for the sport to reach its potential.

Heather Tomlinson said the facility was fully stretched with every table being utilised from nine in the morning until 11 at night, every day of the week.

“The facilities are so inadequate they are crushing the volunteers,” she said. “We have done all we can at the Kingston facility. Our goal is to have a fit-for-purpose table tennis centre in the ACT with a capacity for 16 to 20 tables in size.”

So limited is the sport by the Kingston facility, Table Tennis ACT has hired a basketball court at The Dome in Fadden two nights a week for pennant competition and high-performance training.

Table tennis at The Dome, Fadden. Photo: Supplied.

Table tennis is also being played at The Dome in Fadden. Photo: Supplied.

There are still limitations because of the court flooring at The Dome, while at the Kingston centre the roof isn’t high enough.

Major competitions have been played at the Archery Centre at Tuggeranong.

There is no facility for table tennis on the northside of Canberra despite considerable and demonstrated demand.

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“We want to build our own facility,” Heather said. “All we need is a piece of land. We will raise funds to build it.

“We’d love to be in a sporting precinct. We could offer more coaching and competition. We cater for all ages and abilities, and we’d love to expand the para-athlete program.”

Table Tennis ACT has prepared submissions with numerous options but there has been little traction.

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Used to play table tennis at one of the Kambah school gyms that was closed when the government knocked down the school and sold the land off to property developers.

I remember the Minister telling everyone at the public meeting that they will provide replacement facilities once everything settles down and that the superschool will also provide improved facilities, education opportunities and a community hub for residents. Well that certainly proved a massive failure.

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