Since its inception in early 2000s, the National Jai-alai Association has pulled off a few “miracles” in the jai-alai world.
Their first project, led by Paul Kubala, was convincing a municipality to build a public jai-alai cancha. Getting something like this most likely had never even been attempted before. But in 2007, with help from private funds from the NJAA, the City of St. Petersburg became the first municipality to have its own public jai-alai court. And equally as amazing as this story is, in late 2020, the NJAA was able to get plans approved for the court to get totally remodeled to serve as a more “legitimate” court by increasing the wall length, height and width. Basically an entire new court will be in place of the old one. As you can see in the accompanying blogs of mine, work is ongoing now at a rapid pace and should be completed by the end of the summer.
Another accomplishment by the NJAA was assisting in the famous Dos Equis Beer Jai-alai commercial featuring Johnathan Goldsmith as the “World’s Most Interesting Man”. With help from our senior writer Marty Fleischman, who was General Manager of Dania Jai-alai at the time, virtually all the footage and ideas were obtained with our help. The beer company’s ten-year run was one of the most successful ad campaigns in TV history and made the beer and its overall image a household name.
The NJAA has assisted in putting together dozens of national and international tournaments, presented school demonstrations, assisted hundreds of people over the years with questions on jai-alai and has consulted with producers from the movie Black Mass and TV shows like “The Odd Couple” (a remake a couple years ago).
But last Saturday evening, I got an inquiry that caught my eye instantly. I was in Miami and had just attended the Magic City performance that afternoon and was heading out to watch the Yankees-Marlins game. The email was from a Chris Spidle of Envisage Development. He was reaching out to make contact with us regarding their interest in building a new fronton in Tempe Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) in a new commercial development.
They want a full-blown fronton with limited seating, upscale dining area, a few luxury boxes. What? Are you kidding me? Jai-alai is on the decline. It was recently decoupled in Florida meaning pari-mutual facilities can continue their card cards (along with slots in Broward and Dade counties) without running live jai-alai games. The Connecticut and Rhode Island frontons are long gone. Hello lottery. Hello casinos.
But Chris Spidle and his group have other ideas. Chris is a type of guy who thinks “outside of the box”. Sports betting was just approved in the State of Arizona in April and plans are underway for the Tribe and sports teams to handle the betting action. Another huge bonus is mobile betting. That has been approved also. A huge 46-acre complex to be built in Tempe, Arizona is under planning stages and another sport franchise is required to be brought in. They already have others lined up (see Chris Spidle blog on this website for more details). The complex will include 1,000 upscale residences and 200,000 square feet of retail. All of this will be adjacent to Arizona State University entertainment district. An upscale jai-alai fronton would be attached to a small basketball arena hosting their ABA team.
How far can this project go? They will be putting on a presentation to AECOM and the City of Tempe next week. Initial reaction has been good. Money will not be not object if AECOM is involved. They are one of the largest engineering firms in the world and number 157 on the Fortune 500 List. They have built some of the largest airports and buildings, and stadiums in the world including JFK, LA, Logan Airports, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, AT & T Stadium, Barclays Center, and the World Trade Center.
The NJAA will offer their assistance if this project moves along………….