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When Moses Cleaveland landed on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River in 1796, he probably had no idea he was in The Flats. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for him to imagine the massive factories, bridges and docks that would someday occupy the low-lying flood plain.

Nor could Cleaveland have foreseen the 20th century evolution of The Flats with its ear-splitting rock bands, side-by-side party boats, and three-for-a-dollar jello shots.

But what really would have blown the Connecticut surveyor’s mind is that one day, less than a mile from where he stood, otherwise rational men and women would willingly step into cold, Cleveland winter days and nights simply to whack a foam rubber ball around a cage.

And yet, here we are.

When the Flats Platform Tennis Center opens later this year, it will occupy an area adjacent to Rivergate Park, at Irishtown Bend, on the southern tip of the East Flats. Despite the presence of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, this section of The Flats feels somewhat removed from the condos and oyster bars of the The Flats’ more gentrified sectors. However, the area is not without its attractions.

The paddle center will have stellar views of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, and the Cleveland skyline. Merwin’s Wharf, with its inviting riverside patio, will be a short walk for pre-match meals and/or post-match libations. Also within walking distance are Sainato’s Restaurant, and the Brick & Barrel Brewery. Just up Fall Street is the Flat Iron Cafe, which bills itself as Cleveland’s oldest Irish Pub.

The City of Cleveland and its partners are planning on expanding the Scranton Flats section of the Towpath to run adjacent to the center, which will bring increased visibility and awareness of the center and the game of paddle. On the other side of the river, just across from the center, work is continuing on an Irishtown Bend public park and green space that will bring even more people into the area.

Walking around the future site of the Flats Platform Tennis Center, you can’t help but sense the potential of the area. You get the feeling that this is an environment on the cusp of change, and that paddle is going to be a big part of it. And that’s pretty exciting.

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