By Jeff “Laca” Conway
Despite year two of the worldwide pandemic taking place, Jai-alai action will return this week in Florida. Here is a brief rundown of what’s ahead in South Florida:
The season opens this Wednesday, February 3rd with a night performance. For some reason, jai-alai websites like Dania don’t seem to promote the sport well – there is no mention on the website of the days they will be open during the week and the times of the performances. It just mentions that it reopens that Wednesday. The season will run through May 30th.
But we can tell you it will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights with a double performance on Saturday’s and a Sunday performance at 4pm. The roster is a bit smaller to reduce their losses, but it is still an evenly balanced one with great jai-alai action. The pools are holding their own, making Dania jai-alai a great place to be or watch on your computer or mobile device. Limited seating is allowed with masks required.
Magic City Jai-alai
Magic City begins their 4th season (how does time fly by!) this Saturday with a new expanded season. Just like Dania jai-alai, their website also fails to give details on when the performances will take place. It just says that they are reopening in February! Nerve racking for the public to plan on something like this. But this season promises to be the most exciting yet with their ever increasing roster in terms of talent. Douglas’s 17-year old brother Benny is joining the roster after spending some time up in Connecticut practicing at Matt’s. Word is, he might be as good as his brother or maybe even better at some point. He’s a great listener and learner and jai-alai blood has been in the family. Spinner is leaving the Dania roster and will be playing there too. He’s familiar with the court after being a ref there for some time. Young Julen of Miami Jai-alai is also joining the roster and he should be the one to keep an eye on. He, too has some good jai-alai blood – and in his immediate family. On top of this all of their star players are returning including Douglas, Kubala, Ron Ron, Ikeda, and Carballo. We’ve also been impressed with the improved play of Bradley, Bueno and Ben and be sure to keep an eye on them, too. Magic City is fast paced and hopefully the betting pools will pick up with a more balanced roster
The extended season incorporates the Miami jai-alai season to the be played at Magic City using Magic City players for the next 2 ½ months. Action will only be three days a week – Saturday’s at 4pm, Sunday’s at 1pm and a doubleheader on Monday’s at 1pm and 4:30pm. This is a total bonus season and is keeping Magic City jai-alai to open 10 months this year!
The schedule is confusing, but for now – February 6th till April 12 will be the 3 performances a week format. Then in May it goes back to the 6 performances a week. Fans will not be allowed in the stands for the February 6-April 12th “season”.
The Jai-alai channel will carry both Magic City and Dania Jai-alai and the playing times appear to not conflict with one another.
The Miami season has just ended after running an all singles season in December and January with some of the world’s greatest players including Goiko, Lopez and Dania’s Erik. It was great to watch, but not having doubles action, nor any crowd in the stands to speak of, or betting pools, it was hard to get into like we would have decades ago. Plans remain to open up a Cirque du Soleil on the site but have been put on hold due to the virus. Donald Trump’s buddy in Vegas holds the cards of this one.
The Calder season will start May 1st with a roster of 30-32 players. Word is, those ridiculous player names they have been using may be out the door and a more traditional name – the name they have been using all their lives as a jai-alai player – may be coming back. This means Mr. White can go look for Mrs. White in the game of Clue, and Gitty-up needs to realize Calder is no longer a horse track. Kidding aside, the season plans to run for four months and Watch and Wager will offer betting action if all goes as planned.
Ft Pierce Jai-alai
They run their “season” in May but don’t waste your time with this place!
The drawings for this new jai-alai fronton look amazing, but not much progress has been seen since the July 2019 announcement of the conversion of harness racing to jai-alai. This fronton will not be a glass court and will be one of a decent size and height – sort of a super-size Matt’s court. Right now, harness racing continues to run thru May 16th. The Pompano Racino is Florida’s most successful non-tribe slot machine operator. We will release a big story and fronton drawings when this becomes closer to a reality. The Pompano roster will incorporate many of the Calder players and management.
The folks at Magic City almost had another jai-alai fronton about to get built in downtown Miami when a wealthy auto dealer aroused the mayor and now recently getting a judge to put a holt to it. The facility was only going to hold jai-alai action and poker, but many in the area don’t believe it and want nothing to do with gambling downtown. This is going back to the city counsel for an appeal and then if that fails, its back to court where Magic City is confident they will prevail in the end. Who knows, this court may be built before mine is.
The two-man sham remains where they play to two-point games behind a curtain with no betting.
This place must be done with. The website is gone and I’ve been unable to find out if the building is still standing. Big plans were planned to really clean up the entire area and build a big residential area, but this has been going on since 2008.
Magic City Tournament
This hugely successful event went off after a few postponements from its original April 25-26th plans on December 5-6 without anyone in attendance. All players were tested for COVID, allowing for a safe operation. This year’s event is now scheduled for late August or early September, meaning it will fall on the weekend of August 21-22, 29-29 or September 11-12 assuming they don’t play over Labor Day weekend. The poor way our vaccines are getting administered, allowing crowds indoors like this may be still on restricted even in the late summer. Having 500-600 friends and family in the crowd would add to the excitement this event has the potential for. Also, if the full allotment of people are allowed to sign up again and show up, the event would stage 12-hour plus days, and that is too long. Players would cramp up on top of it, especially if you have to sit for several hours, then get up and play again over and over. They might look at extending it on Friday and/or tinker the format. Perhaps holding it over Labor Day weekend might be an option if you wanted that 3 day event, but generally events stay away from holidays.