updated 14 Jun 2010, 19:41
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Sun, Jun 13, 2010
Urban, The Straits Times
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Bat girl
by Karen Tee

Ping-pong is hot not just among those thrilled with the Singapore women table-tennis team's victory over China at the World Championship recently.

It is popping up on the trend radar of fashion lovers too.

True, these people are not exactly known for their willingness to work up a sweat at the expense of flattening their coifs or damaging their outfits.

However, the opening of Camp Pong, a pop-up ping-pong bar at youth-oriented mall *Scape on Orchard Link, is fast making them throw caution to the wind.

Since it opened two weeks ago, the bar has seen a steady stream of celebrities working up a sweat while duking it out in a game or two of table tennis.

These include a veritable who's who of the local fashion, theatre and nightlife scene, such as model Charmaine Harn, actress Rebecca Tan and DJs Adrian Wee and Andrew T of The Butter Factory.

It helps that the brains behind Camp Pong, which will stay open for only eight weeks, is Tracy Phillips (right), the former marketing manager of iconic nightspot Zouk, whose contact list pretty much encompasses most of Singapore's creative circle.

'This is not so much a sports thing, it's more of a social dynamic,' says Phillips, 32. 'It is great to see people come in to goof off and wind down.'

She left Zouk in May last year and has been working as a freelance creative consultant.

She set up her own creative agency, Present Purpose, earlier this year so that she could work on her own creative projects such as this ping-pong bar.

She says Camp Pong was inspired by the rise of underground ping-pong halls and bars in hip cities around the world including New York, London and Berlin.

Last year, actress Susan Sarandon opened Spin, a swish ping-pong bar in New York City, in which celebrities such as George Clooney and Jamie Foxx have been spotted.

With the game catching on around the world, Phillips is confident Camp Pong will take off here.

'In Singapore and Asia, we already have a heritage of playing ping-pong and a top national table tennis team,' she says.

'Just like billiards and darts, ping-pong is a great activity for venues with limited space. Besides, anyone can play ping-pong. I picked up a bat for the first time three weeks ago and can now pull off a decent rally if my opponent is not going for the kill.'

Prices are at a wallet-friendly $10 per half-hour slot and a pair of bats and ping-pong balls are provided.

Drinks at the bar start from $5 for soft drinks and $10 for house pour spirits and bottled beer. There is no age limit but IDs will be checked for those who wish to buy alcoholic drinks.

However, be sure to drop by before August as Camp Pong will shut its doors then.

'A project like this is not sustainable at Orchard Road rents. There are only four tables and I wanted to keep it affordable and friendly,' says Phillips.

'A ping-pong bar is just something we knew would be novel, fun and make an impact and this space presented me with the right opportunity.'

Once the 2,300 sq ft bar closes in August, Phillips will replace it with a lifestyle retail store and cafe featuring design-centric objects sourced from all over the world.

The as-yet-unnamed store is slated to open before the Youth Olympic Games in August.

'But we will not be closing the door on Camp Pong for good,' she promises.

'We are not ruling out other locations for it.'

In the meantime, she has her hands full organising an amateur league ping-pong tournament that will take place on July 10, 17 and 24.

Interested teams of three can register by sending an e-mail to [email protected] with the subject 'Tournament Registration'.

Staying true to Phillips' style roots, bonus points will be awarded for exceptional team outfits.

The top team wins $1,500 worth of New Balance product vouchers and $300 worth of Loof and OverEasy vouchers.

Plus, the most stylish team will win a $1,000 voucher from Fred Perry.

'I like to joke that it is style over substance here,' she laughs.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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