In most cities, the opening of a new bar or dance club is enough to set the LGBTQ community abuzz, but in Cleveland locals are celebrating the debut of a much more ambitious project, Studio West 117.
This LGBTQ+ complex will eventually span more than 300,000 square feet and house venues for everything from dining to dancing, athletics to education. Studio West 117 is more than just a new business project. It’s about building the groundwork for a new LGBTQ+ neighborhood.
I was lucky to be able to attend the grand opening in 2022 of the first phase of Studio West 117: The Fieldhouse (1384 Hird Avenue, Lakewood. Tel: 216-712-6687. studiowest117.com/fieldhouse). I was impressed with this new facility, as well as with the long-term plans to develop what will be a truly multifaceted complex that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The fact that it’s happening in Greater Cleveland says a lot about how LGBTQ-friendly and progressive this destination is. Destination Cleveland (334 Euclid Ave. Tel: 216-875-6600. thisiscleveland.com), the city’s tourism office, is doing its best to make sure that LGBTQ+ travelers know about what the city has to offer.
The Fieldhouse at Studio West 117, set in a historic, renovated warehouse, is a well designed start for the multi-phase project. The building houses an expansive LGBTQ centric recreation and wellness facility and hosts a variety of sports teams, fitness classes, and other programs. Not being athletic, I didn’t actually partake in any of the sports, but I did manage to observe others enjoying the facilities. I especially loved watching a lively group of drag queens scaling up the rock climbing wall during the opening night party. I did, however, personally experience some of the Fieldhouse’s multiple dining and drinking venues, including Eat Me! Pizzeria, Muze Gastropub, and Trellis, a stylish rooftop bar with a sophisticated food and beverage menu.
Phase two of Studio West 117, which is to debut in 2024, will include additional entertainment venues in a nearby building that’s slated for major renovation, while phase three, scheduled for completion in 2025, will feature a new-build residences and a hotel, among other things.
This new development enhances Cleveland’s already long-standing appeal with LGBTQ+ locals and travelers. During my visit, for example, I sampled a bit of the city’s nightlife, including Twist Social Club (11633 Clifton Boulevard. Tel: 216-221-2333. twistsocialclub.com), which has been open for more than 23 years and features a high-ceiling, exposed brick, and is open seven days a week, with weekend brunch an especially popular time to go.
NEW REASONS TO VISIT CLEVELAND
Studio West 117 may be making the biggest headlines in the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s just one piece of news from the city’s burgeoning tourism scene. The city will be even better connected to the rest of the world, for example, when Aer Lingus launches new nonstop service to Dublin in May.
Several existing attractions are also sporting new exhibits. Through summer 2023, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Union Home Mortgage Plaza. Tel: 216-781-7625. rockhall.com) is featuring “Hotter Than July: The Bruce W. Talamon R&B Photographs,” which showcases the golden age of soul, R&B and funk from 1972 to 1982.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1 Wade Oval Drive. Tel: 216-231-4600. cmnh.org), meanwhile, is in the midst of a major transformation that will be complete in 2024, and visitors can already witness some of the improvements, including the reopening of Smead Discovery Center and various exhibits of artwork and virtual reality experiences.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Boulevard. Tel: 216-421-7550. clevelandart.org), which is home to more than 63,000 works from a 6,000-year time span, and, to make it even more enticing, admission is always free. On exhibit until January 23, 2024 is “Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession,” which explores the eternal fascination that fashion designers have for Egyptian art and design.