East Hampton Indoor-Outdoor Tennis Club Would Like to Broaden Its Appeal

Plans for a $6 million project
The cleared land to the lower right of the photo, including the present “bubble,” which is to be moved to seasonally cover the four courts to the left of the outdoor clubhouse, is the area under discussion with the East Hampton Town Planning Board. Irl Flanagan

The East Hampton Indoor-Outdoor Tennis Club in Wainscott hopes to broaden its appeal here through the addition of 10 bowling alleys, two boccie courts, a mini golf course, a golf simulator, a game room, three pool tables, and a sports bar and lounge, should plans for the $6 million project meet with the town planners’ and county Health Department’s approval.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Scott Rubenstein, the club’s managing partner, said during a conversation last Thursday. “We hope to open some time in the summer of 2017.”

Rubenstein and his fellow partners had come close to buying the 16-lane East Hampton Bowl on Route 27 when it closed a few years ago, “but I chickened out,” he said, with a smile. 

He doesn’t regret his demurral, for, what’s proposed now for E.H.I.T. ought, he said, to provide a broad range of sporting and entertainment activities for all ages under one roof as it were.

To make room for the alleys, boccie courts, pool tables, golf simulator, game room, and sports bar and lounge, a “bubble” that at the moment encloses two of the club’s eight indoor tennis courts is to become a seasonal cover for the four “Wimbledon” outdoor courts to the left of the 20 outdoor courts’ clubhouse, and will be replaced by a 20,000-square-foot steel frame building linked to the one the club put up not long ago to withstand heavy snowstorms.

Rubenstein agreed that he and his partners were taking a risk, but from what he and they have gathered in talking to people here over the past few years, “there seems to be a definite need . . . there really is nothing much to do for young people out here, especially in the winter. The nearest bowling lanes are in Riverhead. They’re beautiful, but it’s still Riverhead that you’ve got to drive to. We’re hoping to revive the weekday bowling leagues, which used to be very popular, and we’ve talked with the school about reviving its bowling team. . . . We’ll be adding 30 employees, some of them seasonal, but that ought to be a plus too.”

Such sports as bowling (the lanes will be air-conditioned), boccie, mini golf, and swimming (E.H.I.T.’s summer camp, which it will greatly downsize, includes two outdoor pools) were found, he said, to be more in keeping with the “family entertainment center” that he and his partners had in mind, said Rubenstein, adding that while some thought had been given as well to ice skating, basketball, and table tennis, these more strenuous pursuits had been eschewed as not entirely in keeping with the “atmosphere” of calmer ones. 

An indoor Olympic-size pool had been considered, but not, because of the great expense, for long, as had a wave pool for indoor surfing, go-karting, and laser tag, ideas that also were rather quickly discarded.

Moreover, the club’s daily use ought to be balanced, Rubenstein said. “Most people play tennis in the morning, while people generally bowl and play mini golf later in the day. . . . Everyone won’t be coming in at 9 a.m.”

The outdoor mini golf course would, he said, comprise 18 holes with different elevations. “The Puff ’n’ Putt at Montauk is nice, but this would be three times bigger. The golf simulator would be inside with the boccie and bowling.”

There would be an outdoor patio with a bar and food service, as well as the sports bar inside. “The food will be simple, but good; the bar will be fully stocked.”

To make way for the mini golf course, four full-court basketball courts, a baseball field, a soccer area, a volleyball court, a playground, and three pickleball courts behind and alongside of the present bubble are to disappear. 

Pickleball, said Rubenstein, had not caught on, though it appears platform tennis, a winter doubles sport largely, whose raised rectangular wooden courts are enclosed by tight wire “walls,” may. 

A platform tennis open house with the club’s paddle pro, Fabio Minozi, is to be held at E.H.I.T. tomorrow, Friday, from 3 to 5 p.m.

“There’ll be no foosball, but we’ll have other games,” Rubenstein replied when the subject came up. “Video games and interactive games. . . . We’ll have Skee-Ball — you remember that.”

He and his wife, Holly, and their 24-year-old daughter, Rebecca, had just returned, E.H.I.T.’s managing partner said, “from a family entertainment center trade show in Orlando,” a trip that had rendered him “even more excited about this concept than I was before. It’s all about creating an atmosphere where people can leave everything else from their other world aside.”

“I think it will be great for the town and the community,” said Rebecca. “Kids my age definitely need something to do.”

“It ought to be good for kids of all ages, including those who are in their 60s and 70s,” said her father.