America’s First Public Jai-alai court is about to go out in a blast! St. Petersburg’s Puryear Park is about to see the wrecking ball. But before that can happen, NJAA organizers are quickly putting together one of their big tournaments on the day before the big plans commence.
Those plans will turn Puryear Park into a larger, near regulation-sized amateur court (check out my previous stories on this in my Pelota Press blogs for full details).
When I announced the courts approval exactly 14 years ago on Tigers Chalk Talk, the jai-alai world was stunned. The approval of a public jai-alai was the result of a decade of persistence by local residents Paul Kabala and Tom “Corky” DeMint. Within minutes, former players like Benny, Randy and Daniel were all reaching out with congratulations. But some people weren’t happy with the size of the court and the wall height. I spent the next couple days explaining why it was going to be built that way. We got what we could do at the time when the economy and real estate industry were about to crash.
But the NJAA crew were not giving up on future plans to expand. A couple of months ago it was all approved. The new expansion will include knocking down the front wall and extending it into the practice court area while extending the height and width of the walls. Extensive netting will further protect the area outside the court.
With the fencing to come down, some slabs pulled up and the front wall getting demolished all scheduled to begin Monday, June 21st , organizers are putting together a big event the day before – Sunday – Father’s Day at 1pm. Players are now signing up and several ex-pros have confirmed into playing including former Tampa and Miami star player “Daniel”. The tournament will be like Matt’s Spectacular 9 but everybody plays the same number of games and players. The top point getters will play in Partido for the championship. There will be 6 jai-alai trophies handed out – 1st, 2nd and 3rd to both the frontcourter and the backcourters.
Anthony Sutton (aka “Ant” at the last Magic City Tournament) will be in charge of the tournament but won’t play. He’s been on the IL list since suffering a torn rotator cuff injury while falling during practice at Matt’s last tournament in Connecticut.
Everyone is welcome to come watch. Again, Puryear Park’s final performance for the court as it is now will be Sunday, June 20th at 1pm. The court will reopen a couple of months later, but being the summer time coming up with much needed rain, it may take longer.