Lionel has built paddle courts all across the country, in all kinds of conditions, including most recently, in the Flats of Cleveland.
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Lionel has worked for paddle court builders, Reilly Green Mountain, for 28 years. He lives in Minnesota, but doesn't spend a lot of time there. He's typically home for a week or two, then dispatched to another part of the country for several weeks of court building.
And Lionel can tell some stories.
There was the time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, when he had to build courts in 40 degrees below zero. "We had to keep the van running the entire time," he says, "and we had to keep the power tools in the van, because after a few minutes, they would freeze." For that job, Reilly Green Mountain outfitted Lionel and his crew with hooded, knee-length down parkas. That helped, but still, it was cold.
Then there was the time in Richmond, Virginia, where the site of the new courts was over 300 yards away from the parking lot where the trucks could unload all the court materials. Oh, and three feet of snow separated the parking lot from the building site, so, “We first had to wait for a plow to clear a path, then we had to carry everything over on our backs. It took a long time," says Lionel.
During the course of building the four courts at the Flats Platform Tennis Center, Lionel spent two 2-week stints in Cleveland, where he insists the job was seamless. A local contractor installed all the piers, using laser technology to make sure the placement and height of each pier was exact. However, Lionel and his two-man crew did spend two days dismantling a donated court at a nearby home. (More on that at a later time.)
Lionel says he likes Cleveland, even though he didn't have much chance to explore it. One Sunday afternoon he and his crew went to Jack Casino downtown. It was a football Sunday, and the casino was packed with boisterous Browns backers, so he and the crew got a good taste of Cleveland sports energy.
When asked about the local dining scene, Lionel and crew report that they found a Mexican restaurant that passed muster--El Taco Loco in Brunswick. (NB--the Cleveland Platform Tennis Foundation is not associated with El Taco Loco, and the opinions expressed here are strictly those of Lionel and his crew.)
So, after building paddle courts for 28 years, does Lionel himself play paddle? "Yes, me and my friends, we play for beers," he says. (Imagine that.) Before you get any ideas about challenging Lionel to a beer match, know that he is personal friends with Johan du Randt (though no word on if Lionel receives any pro tips from his pal).
Lionel is now off to Chicago, where he is slated to build 14 courts before March (!), but he will be back in Cleveland within the next few weeks to put down the spectator decking surrounding the hut and the courts. When he does, be sure take a moment to thank him for doing such a beautiful job on our four courts. A trip to El Taco Loco may even be in order.
Lionel (far right) and crew celebrate the completion of construction with some well-deserved refreshments at Merwin's Wharf.