By Gabriela Carroll
During the COVID-19 pandemic, tennis, among many outdoor activities, saw a resurgence in popularity on the East End.
At East Hampton Indoor Tennis, players have returned to the court after years away, and many have started playing for more days than usual.
“People who grew up playing tennis decided they wanted to do something else, realized again that tennis is fun,” said managing partner Scott Rubenstein. “I heard it all summer. ‘I forgot how much I like tennis! I forgot how much fun it can be!’ With people being out here all week, because they didn’t go back to the city, they played more tennis. When they played more tennis, they played better tennis. They played better tennis, and they had more fun.”
Though named after its indoor courts, East Hampton Indoor has plenty of outdoor tennis courts, which became more popular than ever before with indoor courts closed. Rubenstein said the courts were full from opening to close, with more people choosing to play tennis later in the day, without dinner or social obligations to go to.
In order to play tennis at the courts this summer, one had to make a reservation. Previously, the courts were first come, first serve, but Rubenstein changed the system in order to keep crowds from forming on the deck at the club. He said people have been very receptive to the move to a reservation system, and many call in advance to learn what court they’re on to avoid going near the deck or clubhouse at all.
“This is an outdoor sport. Your typical tennis court is about 7,000 square feet of space. For people on it, there’s still a lot of space. People can be smart about it. I think we have a pretty educated clientele and they understand that our biggest concern was keeping them as safe as you can.”
The juniors program also expanded significantly this summer, something Rubenstein attributes to the lack of alternate summer programming, especially sleepaway camps. Though they put in their best effort to accommodate as many kids as possible, Rubenstein said they still had to turn kids away. With mask, hand washing, and social distancing requirements, he said parents felt safe allowing their kids to participate.
East Hampton Indoor’s success with tennis offset other financial losses from the attached arcade and bowling alley. Those spaces primarily hosted events like birthday parties, and without those larger gatherings, that part of the business really suffered in the pandemic.
But, in a promising sign, fall so far has been good business on the tennis front. With more seasonal residents staying out on the East End because they can work and attend school remotely, more residents have continued to play tennis.
“We haven’t had a fall this good since 9/11,” Rubenstein said.