In about two weeks from now, a 70-year institution will be coming to an end. For the past 46 of those years, I was there in attendance like many others reading this. Dania jai-alai is coming to an end. A decoupling law was passed by legislators earlier this year allows parimututuals like them to close up shop while keep the lucrative slot machines and poker room going.
That Sunday after Thanksgiving is going to be a sad day. Dania Jai-alai’s last performance will be held on Sunday afternoon, November 28th. Although other full court, granite-based front wall frontons in Miami, Orlando, Ocala are still standing, they are not expected to reopen again. Ft. Pierce has been sold and is about to be torn down as owners are relocating the poker room to a much smaller location. No announcements have been made by the frontons, but the Dania closing will likely be the final time you will see a goat skin ball thrown against a granite wall that you can place a parimutual bet on. Jai-alai outlasted the Ringling Brothers Circus, but it’s not going to outlive the Rolling Stones or slot machines.
A few thoughts here.
The end of traditional jai-alai is coming on the last day of the long Thanksgiving break when most people have already made plans to be with family. It is the most traveled time in the United States with nearly 100 million American’s expected to hit the road. Surprisingly, Dania Casino has yet to really make any official announcement on their website. They only confirmed the closing after the business editor of a Ft. Lauderdale newspaper was tipped off about a story in the Pelota Press and contacted us for clarification. The writer had previously been blown off by Dania ownership for details, but on follow up calls they fessed up. That business editor had no clue about jai-alai. Knew nothing about the sport. I had to explain for 70 minutes the history of jai-alai and he was blown away.
Dania really did nothing to market the sport. The word “jai-alai” was pulled off the building years ago. They basically just opened their doors and said “hello, we are here”. I live four hours away, but the only marketing I saw was a billboard or two on the busy highways when they reopened the place after a multimillion dollar renovation. It’s a shame. The new court looks beautiful with the blue walls. A million dollar glass wall which was supposed to separate jai-alai from the casino never materialized and is now a big red sheet of plywood that likely will come down, unless they make the jai-alai portion an entertainment stage or something. They do have one upstairs, but that consists of about 900 chairs and a portable stage and a few round tables up in the front with cocktail service. I saw the best concert in my life there a few years ago when Styx took the stage. I was literally inches away from Tommy Shaw and company. A sports betting lounge could be a possibility, but with Magic City’s lawsuit and another one fighting off-site gambling via the phone could put a hold on that.
The Jai-alai action was great, the place was clean and enjoyable. But nothing was like in the old days when you stepped into a huge palace as it was called. Dania drew crowds back in the day that dwarfed the Florida Marlins crowds at Joe Robbie Stadium. A jai-alai bar, restaurants, buffets, a huge git shop and more. The roar of the crowd. Parking lots were packed. Looking for the big jai-alai sign at US 1 and Dania Beach Boulevard when there was no MapQuest or other electronic means and you knew where to turn.
Entering the building and that bulletproof glass panel is awaiting you with the claim a jai-alai pelota penetrated it.
This will likely be the end of trips to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant. This institution opened shortly after Dania Jai-alai did. The huge menu with huge portions and then the ice cream complete with the kitchen sink. This is an absolute must to visit. And a Giancarlo Stanton homer away is Grandpa’s Cafe, an amazing breakfast and lunch place.
No more visits to Ft. Lauderdale Beach where the classic 1960 film “Where the Boys Are” made the beach as America’s official spring break headquarters with hundreds of thousands heading there every spring. No more drives along the beach and intercoastal checking out the yachts as Ft. Lauderdale is the yacht capital of the world.
No more visits to Casa D’Angelo’s in Ft. Lauderdale, one of the best Italian restaurants south of New York City. Chicken you could cut with a fork.
No more midnight visits to Lester’s diner and its 50s decor. Holy shit, this place is good. I miss those good old diners I grew up in Connecticut with but this one in Ft. Lauderdale is huge and always packed with hundreds of people.
All that plus the Guitar Hotel now.
Enough of this.
I wonder if Elon Musk will let me convert my Tesla from Long Range Plus to Normal Range? I won’t be needing it anymore.