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BayWalk table tennis club idea may hint at center's future

Could one of the hottest spots to open in New York City in the last year be adding a franchise in downtown St. Petersburg?

SPiN New York, which is co-owned by Academy Award winning actor Susan Sarandon, is a table tennis social club in Manhattan's Flatiron District.

A spokesperson for SPiN New York confirmed Friday afternoon that SPiN is exploring expansion opportunities in Florida.

Sarandon's brother, Terry Tomalin, recently visited New York with friends from St. Petersburg who are exploring a possible SPiN franchise in Florida. Tomalin, outdoors editor of the St. Petersburg Times, and business partner Phil Farley have scouted more than six locations in the state, including Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando and Miami.

"The demographics here (St. Petersburg) would be great for something like a table tennis club because of the 25 to 35 age group," said Tomalin.

When asked if he visited the much-maligned BayWalk complex, Tomalin said yes, but he wouldn't confirm the nature of the visit.

"I love BayWalk. Whenever a new movie comes out, I take my kids there," he said. "It's sad how an entertainment complex like that, which has so much potential, has wound up."

Tomalin said that he's consulted with local chef Tom Pritchard of Salt Rock Grill and Island Way Seafood and Pritchard's business partner Frank Chivas for advice.

The New York club has about 15 table tennis courts, a full restaurant, bar, private room and pro shop.

Since it opened, interest in SPiN franchises has come in from throughout the country, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

About a week ago, the cast of Entourage filmed a scene in a yet-to-be named SPiN location in Hollywood, Calif. Photographs were posted to SPiN's Facebook page. The hot spot also has been featured in an episode in this season's Showtime series Nurse Jackie.

"Table tennis is having a resurgence across the country," said Tomalin.

Rumors about new businesses coming to BayWalk have been circulating for months.

With a management team that's been coy about potential tenants, residents are left with rumors and gossip. City Hall is no exception.

"I can neither admit nor deny (the SPiN rumor)," said Mayor Bill Foster. "As you know, we don't own BayWalk and they're free to lease to whomever they want."

But Foster said a business like SPiN would fit in nicely at BayWalk.

"It needs to be an entertainment destination," he said. "Knowing the entertainment and retail mix they're seeking, SPiN would be a good addition here, but who knows.

"I do know they want to sign restaurants and entertainment first. Once you sign that mix, retail will follow," he said.

Others have interest in BayWalk as well. Old Northeast resident Angelo Proestopoulos said he has signed a letter of intent to bring the Loft, a sports bar, to the same space that would be ideal for a table tennis club.

Farley, one of Tomalin's partners, confirmed that he has interest in a business venture at BayWalk, but would not reveal the nature of it.

"We want to get moving on it as quickly as possible and if it doesn't work out there, we'll look for alternative sites," he said.

The possibility of new tenants at BayWalk would be welcome news to residents who've been left with little else besides a restaurant, HermanHome and a few other spots.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, Community News. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or sgadsden@sptimes.com.

BayWalk table tennis club idea may hint at center's future 06/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 7:55pm]
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