By Emily J. Weitz
For the past two decades, if you ever drove down Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton on a summer day, you’d see children laughing and playing in the fields beside the Neighborhood House. From the five campers who started with East Hampton Sports Camp (EHSC) in 1992, hundreds have now come and gone, and many have gone on to become counselors.
“We have kids who started at five years old and are now college students working for us in the summer,” says Co-Director Mark Crandall. “We’ve built an amazing community of families around the philosophy of creating a safe, fun environment for kids to play sports and have fun and make friends.”
But after twenty years, this ever-expanding community may finally be feeling the limits of the Neighborhood House’s small campus.
Enter Sportime in Amagansett, once EHSC’s competition. Their facilities on Abraham’s Path sprawl across 23 acres and include 33 synthetic clay tennis courts and a full size pool. In addition, they recently acquired a Multi-Sports Arena just across the street. This space, owned by the town, is a 20,000 square foot metal structure and will be used during the year for activities like roller hockey, indoor soccer, lacrosse clinics, and more.
In May and June the space will be closed to undergo a $250,000 renovation, which will include an air conditioning system and bathrooms as well as retractable basketball hoops and volleyball courts. Once completed, the space will re-open for the summer months, and will house East Hampton Sports Camp.
The merging of Sportime and East Hampton Sports Camp “marries a lot of different forces,” says Sue DeLara, Manager of Sportime for the past ten years. “East Hampton Sports Camp is very sports heavy with baseball, basketball, and soccer. Those are sports we featured before but now we can expand on those and we can utilize the hockey arena.”
On the other hand, Sportime’s top-of-the-line tennis facilities have historically attracted a serious following of young tennis players, and parents have always loved the fact that even very young kids are promised access to the pool and the opportunity to learn to swim. While EHSC has always made use of the outdoors, taking kids to the ocean and bay beaches as well as utilizing the fields around the Neighborhood House, they’ll benefit from the newly acquired indoor space for rainy days, art space, and indoor spaces especially for the younger campers.
EHSC is structured in such a way that kids can get as deep into their sport or sports as they want to. In the mornings, they’ll play a variety of sports like tennis, swimming, lacrosse, and dodge ball.
“At 1:30,” explains DeLara, “they can either stick with the multi-sport format or choose a sport they want to specialize in. They get to customize their camp experience.”
For kids looking to try something a little different, there will also be less traditional options that utilize the space.
“We’re artists in our own right,” says Crandall, “and we want to have a nice diversity for the whole camp. We want to do some electives that kids are excited for. The poi dancers out here can teach kids about hooping and poi. We’ll have an arts and crafts focus with a nice new studio.”
It seems like there will be something for everyone at the new East Hampton Sports Camp. Summer camp will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then between 5 and 7 p.m. the facilities will be open to teenagers for athletic programs.
“These kids are out of camp age,” says Crandall, “but this will offer them something structured to get them ready for their upcoming seasons.”
The exact structure of the evenings isn’t in place yet, but Crandall insists it will be instructional, and he plans to bring in coaches from either the high school or college level to lead drills, scrimmages, and games. Sports offered will depend on demand, but indoor lacrosse, hockey, volleyball, and basketball are all expected to have a place.
“We haven’t figured out the cost yet,” says Crandall, “but we want it to be affordable summertime fun.” The rest of the time is open to adults for tennis, leagues, clinics, and tournaments.
As EHSC moves to its new home on Abraham’s Path, its directors are vigilant of keeping their vision alive.
“We hope to keep our spirit,” says Crandall, “and all the kids we’ve had in our community for so long. We are excited to expand and have more kids involved. This is our 20th summer, and we’ll have an alumni baseball game and events to commemorate this.”
Apparently staying true to their motto – “Don’t pop anyone’s bubble” — as EHSC and Sportime fuse together, it seems their bubble is getting bigger.