A Rough HISTORY of the Akron Table Tennis Club
latest revision December 2007
(please be patient as photos download to this page)

Akron has a long history in American TT

The  club location at Patterson park hosted a table tennis club from the 1960's until late 2007

In the 1950's and early 60's prominent players from the 'hard bat' racket era included Art Holliway and Terry Mazzoco (still in Akron) and the area even was the headquarters for the USTTA (now USATT) for a few years when it's president lived in Cuyahoga Falls.

During the 50's and '60s, Akron was known as 'the Rubber City', being  the center of Tire manufacturing of the World.  Companies like Goodyear and especially Firestone also hosted table tennis clubs and tournaments, especially the nationally known 'Rubber City Open'.
Firestone_002.jpg (75636 bytes)

In fact when former Korean Champion Dal Joon ('D-J') Lee came to the USA, the Rubber City Open was one of the country's biggest events and the first tournament in the USA to break the 'amateur'   tradition of table tennis by offering Prize money.  DJ settled in Cleveland before moving to Columbus and then Las Vegas,  after starting in the USA as a halftime performer with Danny Vegh and others touring the world with the Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team.

During the 60's  Mark Wampler was a rising junior in the new sponge rubber era of table tennis, with his father as mentor coach and an important figure in local TT circles, before the family relocated to Newark, Ohio. 

While table tennis continued at  Patterson Park throughout, the center of area play shifted in the 70's to Eastway recreation Center at nearby Kent State University where a group of students, including DJ Lee protege Carl Federl and Dave Samiec had gotten the bug for the evolving modern game of sponge ractets and top-spin loops brought to the country by D-J.

Players from Akron and also Canton, Warren, Cleveland  and Western Pennsylvania regular joined with Carl and a growing group of KSU students like Dave Bruss &, Bob Slapnik and Kent area 'townies' like Vernon Weingart (and sons) and then 17 year old Dave Strang.

        Roy Dietz and Vernon Weingart                     Dave Strang and Bob Slapnik c 1976

Dave started as a  local high school student who became a KSU student, eventually winning the Kent State yearly student table tennis tournament 3 times after narrowly losing to Dave Samiec as a freshman. Both Daves teamed to win regional college doubles titles and Strang eventual placed 7th in singles and second in mixed doubles in the 1981 National Collegiate championships when he returned to KSU   

When the University replaced the 3 ping-pong tables in the late 1970's with an expanded snack bar area, Dave teamed with Streetsboro resident Vern Weingart to move the group briefly to Streetsboro.

In 1977-78 Dave joined with an Akron resident Bob Marzolf, to rent a large storefront in a neighborhood shopping mall in the Ellet section of Akron to open the Akron Table Tennis Center.

Upstairs at Akron TT Center - tables 1-3                   tables 4-9 were downstairs

With 9 tables, the club was open 7 days a week with various leagues and open play days promoted for juniors, beginners and expert players.

The club hosted a revived Rubber City Open, which in spite of modest prize money attracted 150 players in 1978 to be the 3rd largest tournament held in the USA that year.

The center closed about 1980  when the lease expired and a medical supply company out-bid table tennis for the large space.  A comparable full time space at an affordable cost couldn't be found so Dave shifted gears to another way of  promoting the sport, while working in sales positions and finishing school.

So at that point Dave revived weekly play at the Patterson Park club, and established the Akron Table Tennis CLUB using a succession of large area gyms and other spaces for  weekly play and occasional tournaments and clinics while returning to finish his interrupted College and eventually also earn a Masters degree in Sports Administration.

In nearly 15 years, between 1980 and 1994, in addition to Tuesday nights at the Patterson Park, Akron TTC playing sites, arranged by Dave included, Summit Lake Park (gym),  Balch Street Athletic Club, West Akron Community Service Center,  Akron Alliance Fellowship and the Summit County Fairgrounds.  Each hosted the club for 2 to 4 years including clinics and tournaments.

Other clubs existed nearby during various years including one at Akron University started by Dr.Story and one in Fairlawn briefly operated by then BP/Standard Oil Sales trainer Homer Brown.

Akron table tennis was the first club in the Ohio to use 1" imported 'pro' tables, Donic tables imported from Germany. As the club upgraded or bought new tables, it helped upgrade area clubs by selling used Donic tables at a reduced price, and sometimes even on installment payments  to other area clubs including the first of these used by the Cleveland and Canton TT clubs.
With the addition of temporary lighting, rented canvas  tent panels as walls and new Donic tables  and
 court dividers, Strang converted a large Picnic Pavilion - at Clays Park <upper right>- into a tournament site for 
the  '92? Sun TV Akron/Canton Open . The following year the event was held at the Louisville YMCA.

The '95 Akron Open at Akron Alliance fellowship (photo below left) was also one of the first sanctioned US tournaments to use Orange balls after they joined the traditional white as ITTF & USTTA approved and also one of the first Ohio tournaments to use the popular 'round-robin' format for most events. 

          Akron TT Club at Akron Alliance Fellowship                               Akron TTC at Summit County Fairgrounds
Dave also opened a club briefly and held the 'Y-town Open'  during a winter internship for his first KSU degree at the  YMCA in Youngstown Ohio, and also re-started the KSU club during some years at the college's new Intramurals complex .. 

In 1988 Strang's Master's degree internship took him to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.  From 1992 and 1993 He took a Marketing and product  development job with Robbins Sport in suburban Detroit , national distributor for TSP brand table tennis rackets and equipment.

Dave continued organizing tournaments in the Akron area, to promote the ATTC from 1992 to 1995 even while working in Michigan  then Connecticut. He won his first USATT Men's Open title at the 1993 Sun TV Canton Open shortly before moving to Connecticut after previously finishing 2nd or 3rd in a number of previous Ohio tournaments. 

 Dave took over and expanded the Connecticut TT Clubs in 1993-94 and has been promoting club table tennis there for over 10 years. He continued to oversee the Akron Club at Patterson Park until 2008 and started and maintains it's Website while passing week to week supervision at Patterson Park first to Don Story and Vernon Weingart and then to Don Bassette. 

During the Akron TT Club years from 1980 to 2007, a variety of players have either assisted Strang, or in his absence,  taken over most of his duties supervising the club.

These have included, Dr. Donald Story,  Ken Fenstermaker, Joe Helfand, Vern Weingart and most recently Don Bassett.  Special help with tournaments also included Terri Weaver, Sam Steiner, Rick Hardy, David Berenson, and others, especially Dave's mother Bettie.

In late 2007, play at Patterson was discontinued, as former Patterson Park players have starter clubs in larger facilities at the University of Akron's Memorial Gym complex and the Family Life Center Gym at the House of the Lord Church on Diagonal Road. Good luck to these exciting new clubs, carrying the torch forward.

Thanks to all the players and especially club helpers and supporters who made Akron table tennis 'history' and to the community minded organizations (like Patterson Park) that hosted the club at various times in first class facilities.

Please submit photos or information to me by e-mail for possible corrections or additions to this page.

Contact me at nettadave@yahoo.com