Clubhouse Opens Today

“Everyone’s invited . . . tell your friends, tell your friends’ friends!”
Holly Rubenstein has kept a lot of balls in the air over the past couple of years as the Clubhouse at East Hampton Indoor Tennis, which opens today, has taken shape. Craig Macnaughton

It’s been a while coming, two and a half years in fact, but the Clubhouse, the massive pleasure palace annexed to East Hampton Indoor Tennis’s six indoor courts officially opens today, at 11 a.m. to be precise.

At first, Scott Rubenstein, the East Hampton Indoor/Outdoor Club’s managing partner, thought it would be open by mid-February, then it was late April, then it was Memorial Day, then mid-June, then it was “In 2018, sometime in 2018. . . .”

“It’s a day we’ve long been waiting for,” he said the other afternoon on the Outdoor Club’s deck, having finally been afforded a moment to catch his breath. 

“Everyone’s invited. . . . Tell your friends, tell your friends’ friends!” 

He first got the idea for the family-oriented, multifaceted entertainment center, he said, four or so years ago on coming upon a similar, and even bigger one, in Nashville. 

With bowling alleys, a challenging 18-hole outdoor mini-golf course, a well-appointed restaurant, and 39 arcade games among its other attractions, what has come to be known as the Clubhouse would extend E.H.I.T.’s appeal throughout the community, he reasoned in successfully pitching the idea to his partners, Jerry Cohen, Dick Tarlow, Barry Emanuel, and John Geelan.

Obviously, the Clubhouse, which occupies somewhat more than four acres all told, with roughly half an acre inside, was a big project to undertake, estimated originally to cost about $6.5 million, “but then,” Rubenstein said, as Junior Davis Cuppers scurried around him, “there was a big ‘Ooops’ moment. My bad.”

He and his wife, Holly, who, he said, has been by his side since work began in the fall of 2015, have acted as clerks of the works, dealing with legions of contractors and with state, county, and town agencies, whose helpful suggestions and timely approvals he appreciated. 

“Whether it was the Building Department, the fire marshal, the town engineer, the Planning Department or the architectural review board, they were all great. Sometimes they get unfair criticism, but I can tell you it was nice to work with people who wanted us to be successful. It kind of makes you proud to have grown up here and do a project that is received so well by the entire community. All the agencies got us what we needed and as quickly as they could.”

As of July 4 all the key permits — the certificate of occupancy, the county Health Department’s approval, and a state liquor license — were in hand.

As for some specifics, there are 10 bowling alleys, a 200-seat restaurant, with 100 of those seats inside and 100 outside, a 30-foot bar inside and a large semicircular one outside, three indoor bocce courts, cornhole, the mesmerizing arcade game room, an outdoor firepit, two leather sofa-surrounded fireplaces, one near the alleys, one near the bocce courts, the aforementioned challenging mini-golf course, and 28 — count ’em, 28 — oversize, some of them gigantic, television screens.

“Come watch the World Cup final [Sunday] — you’ll feel like you’re there!” Rubenstein said.

Carly Emanuel, Barry’s daughter, won the naming contest, and the logo too is hers.

E.H.I.T.’s managing partner said he understood the purists’ demurrals when it came to the string pin-setters, “but, in the end, a strike is a strike,” he said, adding that the University of Nebraska’s men’s and women’s bowling teams, the top teams in the country, used string pin-setters when practicing.

The sleek, easy-to-maintain lanes “don’t require a full-time mechanic — anybody can do it. If they get tangled, it’s easy to untangle them,” the subcontractor Paul Francioni of Fox Chapel, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, said of the yet-to-be-officially sanctioned string pin-setters. 

“There will always be automatic pin-setters and sanctioned leagues,” he continued, “but these lanes are for the recreational bowler, for families, for people coming out to have fun. That’s the direction the sport is taking now. I’ve probably built 40 to 50 centers like this, a lot of them in North Carolina. Centers don’t make money off leagues anymore — parties and events is where you make your money.”

A spinoff of E.H.I.T.’s decision to revive bowling here — a C.V.S. store stands where the East Hampton Bowl once did, across from the Red Horse market — is that a revived East Hampton High School bowling team will be able to practice at the Clubhouse, though its matches will have to be played elsewhere until the day comes when the simpler pin-setting system gets sanctioned.

The mini-golf, Rubenstein said, “won’t be a walk in the park. Most of these courses have four tough holes. We told them to make 14 of them difficult. It’s a fun, challenging course.”

Brian Schlitt, “a great chef who used to work in Nick and Toni’s catering division,” is running the restaurant, which will serve “American pub fare, but very healthy, fresh, fresh. . . . There’ll be great salads. . . .”

He wouldn’t have undertaken such an expansion, he added, were it not for his “really loyal staff of 15 to 24 who have been with me for years,” a group that includes the Rubensteins’ children, Matt, Brian, and Rebecca, and their first cousins Tom, Kelsi, and Jacqui Thorsen. “I couldn’t do it without them,” he said.

Asked who would roll out the first ball, Rubenstein didn’t hesitate. “Holly should. So much of what you see she made happen.”