Yesterday on the Dania Jai-alai broadcast, Benny and Big Dave Lemmon discussed the St. Petersburg Cancha during their broadcast.
You can check I out here.
Special thanks to George Quinn for sending it over to the Pelota Press. I was watching the NFL playoffs on TV all day Sunday and missed it. I also could have sworn I heard the announcer (who I had no idea was) close out Saturday nights performance as saying the next performance was this Wednesday. Oh well, we all have bad nights, like Dave LaMott did on Friday night! I’ll see you guy again this Thursday and Friday nights. Been a real treat to watch the past 6 weeks and its almost coming to an end. Benny has already mentioned about next year on the broadcasts, so one can assume it’s been a success like we predicted. How ‘bout some marketing next year Dania? Couple of billboards perhaps? Even send out some email updates to your own data base on jai-alai would help. too.
Here are a lot of unique stats compiled by Jabracadabra and Straymar based on the first 2 1/2 weeks of action of the tournament being held at Dania Jai-alai.
These stats should help you make bets with more accuracy on the mostly new and young roster.
Be sure to check out their website - Say HiLi for more details.
The National Jai-alai Association welcomes back the Magic City roster for its 3rd annual event January 13-14th of next month. The dates are on a Friday and Saturday this time, with the scheduling dates approved by Magic City management.
Friday will likely be a practice day with open play for all players- Magic City’s roster and the public.
Saturday would be a structured event, most likely a bunch of games featuring players mixed up and some with players from each cancha competing against each other. There will be no trophies, fees or any organized “tournaments” as play is strictly for fun. Magic City players are on a year-round employment contract, and their safely and well-being is our most concern. Free programs will be handed out to all as a sponsorship of The Pelota Press, Clearwater Enviro Tech, and Magic Mike Computer Services.
On Friday night, January 13th, the JLaca Museum will be open again to all jai-alai players and fans at 6pm. There will be plenty of alcohol, wine, soda, domestic beer, and food available. RSVP is required to obtain a head count. If you would like to bring an appetizer or dessert, please do so. If you don’t like “old fart” beer like Bud or Bud Light, you might want to bring your own. The players have always enjoyed their visit to the museum. The Home Theatre, with its 150” screen and surround sound will be open later for Live Dania Jai-alai betting with Watch and Wager.
The past two Magic City events, both held in the “off season” winter , have been a big hit. Record breaking player turnouts with decent crowds attending.
The public is welcome to attend either day, but we recommend Saturday – January 14th when everyone is out there. The starting time is to be determined. One side note is the NFL Playoffs start that day at 4:30pm and continue all weekend. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold on to win the division (yes, they do have Tom Brady on the team that is in first place with under a .500 record), they would likely host the Dallas Cowboys. That site would be just across the bridge in Tampa – on a date and time to be determined. However, any game with the Cowboys vs. Tom Brady would likely be in prime time.
Former Florida Gaming Corporation CEO William Bennett “Benny” Collett, Jr. passed away on the morning of November 22, 2022, in Indiana. He was 67. The cause of death is unknown, but he did suffer from diabetes, like many of us.
For nearly two decades, he oversaw operations of the largest frontons in Florida. Unfortunately, it was not the best of times for the sport and business of jai alai. The strike, followed by the lottery and other gambling options all but crippled the game. Property selloffs were inevitable.
In one of the saddest days I can remember, Tampa Jai-alai sold its vast 40-acre site to Monroe’s Prestige Group for $8.3 million in 1998, shutting down the legendary fronton July 4th of that year. Shortly afterwards, a Home Depot and Sam’s Club were built on the site. It was only the beginning of the end of what was once a very profitable company.
Mr. Collett was featured in a few of Marty Fleischman’s stories this past summer in the Pelota Press, which can be viewed in the Archives section under “News”.
Benny is survived by his wife Rose, his children Katie and Kyle, his granddaughters Lila and Lennox , and his Uncle Gene and Aunt Bennie.
Dania Jai-alai reopened its doors to the public last Thursday night to an enthusiastic crowd of about 250 people. Yes, goat-skin Jai-alai is back! After November of 2021, it appeared the end was here. On the closing night festivities, Benny said, “Never say never” and it turned out to be true with an April 2022 weekend tournament held and now a full two-month season under way.
Things got off to a slow start with the tape of the national anthem not playing right away. We were hoping ESPN’s Dave LaMont, who was announcing that opening night, would have grabbed the microphone, and started singing. Hey, he’s got a great voice anyway. The tape finally played several minutes later and then the players were all introduced to the rousing crowd. The nine-game schedule then took off without incident.
As previously said, about 250 people attended the fronton on its opening night. I was fortunate enough to get to sit next to one of the all-time greats – Chimela – for several games on opening night, just like I did for what was to be the final closing night in November 2021. I still envision watching him on the grand opening night in Bridgeport 45 years ago climbing the wall several feet to snag bullets with the roar of thousands in amazement. Other former great players in the crowd included Felix and Tevin (who wasn’t wearing a suit for the first time!). Magic City star Douglas was there – just hours before getting married the following day. Ownership and management were very happy with the turnout and have been pleased with the handles. It’s getting bodies into the casino with a little bit more atmosphere going on other than the sound of slots machines dinging away.
The Friday and Saturday crowds were not that crowded, perhaps around 100 in the crowd during the night. However the handles were better and that’s all the really counts, but Watch and Wager only pays them 4% vs. the full 25% they get inhouse. Expect the crowds to pick up over the last couple of weeks in December and in January with the holidays behind us and more tourists in town.
New player analysis
The new players, all from the French and Spain part of the Basque region – and barely old enough to shave! – played very well. The general censuses from the crowd were positive. Considering it was their first time to America with less than a week to practice and no pro experience at all, they played well. Also, getting used to the Spec 7 or 9 format must be difficult to adjust to. Benny did a great job finding these guys. Meanwhile, virtually all the returning players struggled somewhat, likely the result of over a year layoff of little or no jai-alai action. Bailo and Arta were especially rusty out there on their first few performances.
As time goes on, we can expect the retuning players to get back into playing shape and the youngsters to continue to improve. However, the season or tournament we shall say, ends January 28th.
It’s going to take a little more time to fully get a grip on all the players and be able to handicap the games. Who will be the next Erik? We shall see.
There were two main complaints we heard. One was on the new uniforms. Though “sharp” looking, they are hard to distinguish from one another. From watching in person through the thick screen, watching on the overhead screen above the court, or on your phone, it was not easy to tell who was out on the court. Busy talking to people like Chimela, N. Miami George, George Quinn, Jesus, Becky, and Steve “The Hook” during play, I was trying to make notes of who dropped a duck, made a great play, or overserved, and was noting the wrong player or team nearly every time. I had to look at the scoreboard above the court to see the last team in the rotation to know who lost that point.
The post 2 ”blue” uniforms can look as though they are post 5 “black”. Or look like post 4, 7 or 8. Post 3 “white”, while “cool” looking, appeared like someone threw a referee’s uniform into the washer with too much bleach and used it as post 3. Post 6 was not gold or yellow. Post 4 does not appear to be green in color.
Kidding aside, we will have to get used to it, I guess. The uniforms should be simple, and clearly identifiable as to what post it is. There is way too much black around the collars and arms to throw it off on top of it.
The other complaint was the scoreboard being unable to see how many points the two teams on the court had. The white was blended in with the white lettering on Dania Jai-alai on the wall. I noted it was corrected by Sunday’s matinee by simply having the camera move it toward the floor for a solid gray background.
But the best news is that the video production was updated with a new system in place and a better overall picture.
What’s in the Future?
It appears that talks are underway for another two-month season in 2023. While we hoping for a longer season, we will find out soon.
Dania Jai-alai is all set for the grand RE-opening of jai-alai this Thursday night at 7pm. The 69-year-old fronton was all thought to be dead about a year ago when about 800 fans packed the building for what was a farewell to Dania Jai-alai (and for all intent purposes the end of full court, goat-skinned pelota after a 98-year run in the USA).
The season will run for two months in a tournament style with lots of new, young players on the 22-man roster. The new players are here in the USA and practicing – as you see view in the video we have posted here.
Some more good news – the two Dave’s – longtime veteran announcer “Big” Dave Lemmon and ESPN’s Dave LaMont (shown in the photo along with player manager Benny Bueno last year) will be returning to the booth to cover much of the action. However, “Big Dave” will be handling Sunday’s matinee action.
We will be anticipating the new video system in place, already witnessed in a couple of scenes from their slick roster introduction scene and the “Benny interviewing Benny” clip.
A grand reopening ceremony is planned for Thursday night.
The Pelota Press is a sponsor of this seasonal return of Dania jai-alai and will be onsite for the first few performances with plenty of coverage information coming up by the end of the weekend.
Try to help support Dania jai-alai for this two short two-month return. Positive handle and crowd numbers will go a long way if there is more Dania jai-alai to come after this.
The second annual International Loren Harris Jai-alai Tournament will be held at the Fronton Salas February 3-5 in Cancun, Mexico.
Under the direction of Maestro Alejandro Diaz Perez, all amateur and professional pelotaris are invited to participate in this huge event. The unfortunate loss of Loren Harris was devastating and still hard to imagine.
The hosts welcome individual players and groups of players for the event.
There will be a $25 entry fee. Singles, Doubles and Team Competition available based on the number of participants.
Please make every effort to attend the event or play in it. Cancun is a great place to have fun and the Salas brothers make it even better. But the focus is to remember the tragic loss of Loren Harris.
Their new fronton is awesome, and the action will be a blast.
As first reported on the Say Hi Li site, the Magic City Casino is getting sold.
Rumors of a sale of the valuable casino have been floating around for several months but was recently confirmed by Stu Neiman.
“While a change in the ownership of Magic City Casino may be taking place, there will be no change in the ownership of Magic City Jai-alai. The same ownership group which founded the program in 2018 will continue to operate the program with expansion in 2023.
That’s great news!
While rumors of the potential sale turned out to be correct, the immediate demise of jai-alai will not happen. There will be a 6th season, and as previously reported, a longer season with an increased roster.
Scott “The Savior” Savin will be heavily involved in the Magic City jai-alai operations, but his status as for the casino operations is unknown.
Magic City Casino is now the busiest casino of the pari-mutuels that include Gulfstream, Big Easy (Mardi Gras), the Isle in Pompano, Calder, Miami, Hialeah Park, and Dania based on the past couple of reporting months.
They were the only racino reach ten figures with a reported slots net revenue in July 2022 of $10,635,062. For years, The Isle in Pompano had been the leader, but revenue as sagged a bit since the pandemic and hasn’t quite fully caught backup yet.
Magic City just completed its 5th season this past weekend and will be opening earlier than before – next February with the season length getting expended to mid-December. However, they will close the month of August to hold the USNJAC and the Word Super Cup tournaments.