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Men in a Tub

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Charles Fleck will see a lifelong dream materialize at Flex Cleveland's Grand Opening and Open House this afternoon. After three years of construction, the Cleveland native will unveil the world's largest gay bathhouse. "It wouldn't be fair to compare this to any of its kind anywhere," says Michael Ontko, the club's manager. "It's pretty much anything you can imagine.'

The 50,000-square-foot club once housed the old Greyhound bus depot, which Fleck bought for $85,000 three years ago. He has since renovated it to add to a five-club chain of bathhouses with locations in Columbus, Phoenix, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Today, the building is divided into 120 rooms, including a 3,000-square-foot steam bath, a 20-man Jacuzzi, and a 120-degree Russian sauna that pumps out pore-cleansing eucalyptus vapors. It also has a kitchen serving Continental breakfasts, a theater with a 60-inch movie screen, indoor and outdoor pools, and a sundeck blanketed with 40 tons of sand. There's even a $250-a-night presidential suite, complete with queen-sized bed, antique furniture, chandeliers, and a grand piano.

Fleck chose to leave intact a few of the old depot's charms, including the sweeping staircase at the entrance and the bus bays, which are now part of the pool and Jacuzzi areas. "We've tried to retain some of the original décor and architecture," says Ontko. "We've maintained some of the original paneling in the rooms. We even tried to preserve the outside façade of the building. We didn't want to start totally from scratch."

For card-carrying members, fees range from $20 for a six-month pass to $38 for annual dues. Nonmembers pay $9 for an eight-hour stay, in addition to $15 for locker space. The club will keep its doors open 24-7 year-round. "Charles loves Cleveland," says Ontko. "He's done extensive traveling, and this whole project has been his vision, a compilation of different things he's seen in his travels. I see us being an end-destination resort for people not only throughout the Midwest but throughout the world."
Sun., July 2, 2-8 p.m.

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