CLEVELAND, Ohio – In the hollow of the Flats between two curves of the Cuyahoga River, a sleepy part of the Industrial Plain will soon gain some energy, thanks to the vision of a nonprofit that promotes tennis from platform.
With the backdrop of bridges, trains, the federal building and terminal tower, the Flats Platform Tennis Center is in the final stages of funding for four platform – or paddle – tennis courts. Organizers said they hope the courts will be operational this year.
Officially, it’s platform tennis, as the heating elements will be hidden underneath to melt the snow, and it’s mostly played at night. The four-lot project has been planned for three years. Between the courts will be a heated hut.
âIt’s like tennis but reduced to about half the size,â said Hank Stewart, who sits on the board of directors of the Cleveland Platform Tennis Foundation. âThe field is delimited in the same way, the net is there. The big difference is that you can play off the screen.
Foundation members have identified several locations in an effort to reduce costs while being in the best location geographically. The courts are located at 1003 British St.
âIt was such a great opportunity with all the new people living downtown,â said Karen Nejedlik, Board Member.
So far, the organization has spent $ 600,000 on infrastructure, and last month it needed about $ 150,000. The money was collected through donations and with the support of businesses. The Pittsburgh-based American Platform Tennis Association, the national governing body, contributed the largest grant in APTA history, said Stewart and Nejedlik.
âThey said, ‘You are the model of how we hope to paddle in city centers across the country,â âsaid Nejedlik.
Platform tennis is its unique entity but combines various sports, a bouillabaisse of tennis, racquetball, squash and table tennis, mixed with the coordination of handball and – of all things – chess.
âIt’s a strategic game,â said Nejedlik.
In tennis, she said, if you are more powerful than your opponent, you can strike shots through the net at a weaker competitor. But in platform tennis, she said, there are other things to consider: the court is much smaller and doubles are often played. In hot weather, the ball heats up and bounces while in winter it cushions.
âYou almost have to think ahead, like three hits on the road,â she said.
“You change your strategy on how you hit because you want to try and barely get it on screens and people dig itâ¦ make it harder for them.” If someone is lining up hard shots, they can just say, “Alright, let it hit the field, bounce off the screen,” and they’re going to take it in the air and send it straight back to you. “
Mainly a doubles game, the score is the same as tennis. Do not exist. Only one service is given. Usually a doubles game, its origins date back to the 1920s when a couple of buddies invented it in New York City. It was developed as a winter sport but has evolved to be year round.
âIf you have some racquet skills it will be very easy to learn this game,â said Stewart.
All four Short Flats are reused from an East Coast club. The aluminum surface is intentionally rough, so installation is not a problem. Players wear tennis shoes, but they may only last a few months due to the rough surface.
âYou don’t dive for the ball in this game,â said Stewart. “You don’t flaunt yourself.”
The ball is similar in size to a tennis ball but slightly heavier. The paddle is light with a gripping surface. Paddles can cost $ 100 and can last for multiple seasons, and there is no string. Glasses are optional to protect against capricious ricochets.
The Flats facility will have used paddles and balls available for beginners, said Stewart and Nejedlik.
The association structures the operation like a YMCA.
âThis is how we’re going to keep the lights on, by selling memberships,â said Stewart. Both said it would be competitively priced and discounted for those under 30 and families. Each year, membership can cost around $ 800.
âWe don’t want to have a financial barrier to play,â said Nejedlik. If that’s too high for a youngster just graduating from college, for example, monthly payments might be an option, she said.
âThe idea is to get people interested in the game – never tried, never seen – to get started. We all think it’s pretty addicting; it has been for us. A lot of people, once. that they have tried it, fall in love and we hope they convert into members, âsaid Stewart.
Camaraderie plays a big part, said Stewart. Flats’ location has it all, with Brick and Barrel, Merwin’s, Forest City Brewery, and Project BrewDog – not to mention the established bars in the area – all set to enjoy the post-game crowds.
While waiting for infrastructure and permits to be finished, the target date for the bullets to start flying is October or November, although the warming lodge will likely take longer to complete.
The Greater Cleveland Platform Tennis Association runs leagues from October through March. The age range can go up to the 80s.
âWe are democratizing the game,â said Stewart.
In addition, a youth mentorship program, run entirely by volunteers, is being prepared for high school and high school students to learn the game. The plan is to have half the group in the field while the other half will be in the hut to work with life skills and homework. Stewart and Nejedlik described it as similar in efforts to First Tee and Urban Squash.
âOur strategy has never been to pull people out of the clubs in the east,â said Stewart. âThey’re going to do their thing. Our strategy has always been to bring new people into the game, from downtown to the west, especially young people, and have them play for life.
I am on cleveland.comlife and culture team and cover topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am on Thursday mornings. And tune in at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays for âBeer with Bona and Much, Much Moreâ with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @ mbona30.
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