(Page 2 of 3)
Others have heard that the game originated at a camp in the Northeast and that Israeli counselors there brought the game back home. Or that the game started in Israel, but gained adherents in Australia.
Whatever its provenance, the formerly under-the-radar pastime is now played in leagues and tournaments at recreational centers and churches. Elementary schools from Washington to New Jersey are replacing jungle gyms with Gaga pits. At Harvard, Curry College and other colleges, students play outside Hillel houses. In Abilene, Texas, the graduating class of 2011 at McMurry University donated a Gaga pit as its class gift.
The game has even become a business opportunity in, of all places, the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where two friends founded The Gaga Center.
“People have this love for Gaga tucked away, and there are those who never heard of it before and fall in love the second they walk in the door,” said Alissa Schmelkin, who with her friend, Marcy Singer, opened an indoor facility with three Gaga pits last February.
Schmelkin had never played the game, but about six years ago her four-year-old son became enthralled with Gaga at Coleman Country Day Camp in Long Island. Singer, whose son went to Hampton Country Day Camp in Long Island, also came home singing its praises.
“We were talking and realized they loved the same game and we had never heard of it before,” Schmelkin said. “But there was no place in Manhattan to play.”
The emergence of Gaga has created a new market for entrepreneurs like Schmelkin, who is considering opening up additional Gaga centers across the city.