U.S. Jai-Alai Fronton History

1904

The first Jai-Alai fronton in America was built in St. Louis, MO during the 1904 World’s Fair. It opened on May 15. However, after only two months, the Jai-Alai operations ended. 


1924

The first fronton in Miami was built as part of the Hialeah complex. On September 18, 1926 the original Miami fronton was destroyed by the “Great Miami Hurricane,” a massive Cat 4 storm which devastated Miami and Miami Beach.


1926

The New Orleans fronton was built in 1925 and opened for Jai-Alai on November 25, 1926. Information on the New Orleans fronton is hard to find. The closing date for Jai-Alai games cannot be found by this author.


1927

Jai-Alai began in Chicago at the Rainbo Fronton (Rainbo Gardens) on December 21. Fred Mann’s Rainbo Gardens was one of Chicago’s premier entertainment venues and had seating for 1,726 Jai-Alai patrons.  The fronton was troubled with Prohibition issues in 1928 and later with alleged illegal pari-mutuel betting on Jai-Alai games.


1936

Pari-mutuel wagering begins at the Biscayne (Miami) Fronton on January 4 (near Miami International).  On Dec 27, 1975, a record 15,502 spectators attended the Miami Fronton.  The last game was played at Miami on Sunday evening, January 31, 2021, due to the decoupling measure which passed in Florida which no longer required pari-mutuel performances to keep the casino operating.


1938

Jai-Alai was introduced at the Hippodrome in New York, NY on September 8, but play only lasted for one season. The beautiful Hippodrome building was demolished so a parking garage could be built on the site.


1953

Tampa Jai-Alai in Florida opened on December 19 (closed July 4, 1998).

Dania Jai-Alai in Florida opened on December 23, 1953.  Jai-Alai had its final performance at a Sunday matinee at “Casino @ Dania Beach” and closed Jai-Alai operations on November 28, 2021, another victim of the decoupling measure which passed in Florida, allowing casinos to operate without having to offer pari-mutuel games. Some of the Dania players are continuing their careers playing short-court Jai-Alai at Magic City Casino & Jai-Alai in Miami. Their short-court talents will be on display at Magic City for the 2022 season which starts on Feb. 14, 2022.


1956

West Palm Beach Jai-Alai in Florida opened on January 12.  Jai-Alai ended on November 27, 1993 and satellite wagering at the facility began on January 12, 1994.  Live Jai-Alai resumed on November 23, 1994 and lasted a short time until permanently closing on December 30, 1994.

Note:  On December 26, 1978 the West Palm Beach fronton was destroyed by fire, presumed to be arson.  The fronton was rebuilt and reopened in January of 1981. The new fronton had seating for 6,000. The largest attendance was 10,000 on the last day of the 1986/87 season.


1959

Daytona Jai-Alai in Florida opened on June 4 (closed in 1992, exact date unknown by this author).  Note:  On April 11, 1974, the Daytona fronton was destroyed by fire.  A Springfield, Massachusetts Mafia crime boss, Salvatore Cufari, was later implicated in the crime.


1962

Orlando Jai-Alai in Florida opened on January 5.  Orlando stopped playing traditional Jai-Alai games in 2015 and maintained a very small Jai-Alai presence to skirt the laws and maintain the license (the 2-player games were called “The 2-man sham” and were very unpopular with Jai-Alai fans). The last “games” were played in 2020 and not continued in 2021 due to passage of the decoupling measure in Florida.


1971

Brevard Jai-Alai in Melbourne, Florida (later known as Melbourne Jai-Alai) opened on November 1 (closed February 3, 1990).  The Melbourne fronton was converted to greyhound racing until closing.


1973

Ocala Jai-Alai in Florida opened on June 11.  Currently called “Ocala Gainsville Poker” and maintained a very small Jai-alai presence starting around 2010 to skirt the laws and maintain the license (the 2-player games were called “The 2-man sham” and were very unpopular with Jai-Alai fans. The last “games” were played in 2020 and not continued in 2021 due to passage of the decoupling measure in Florida.


1974

Fort Pierce Jai-Alai in Florida opened on April 11.  Traditional pari-mutuel games ended in 2014 and “Casino Fort Pierce” continued singles games with a reduced roster and a short season. The last games were played in 2020 and games were discontinued for 2021 due to passage of the Florida decoupling measure.

MGM Casino fronton opened in Las Vegas in the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s). Jai-Alai lasted until Nov. 21, 1980 when the MGM Grand Hotel fire took 85 lives.


1976

Hartford Jai-Alai in Connecticut opened on May 20 (closed September 5, 1995).

Bridgeport Jai-Alai in Connecticut opened on June 1 (closed April 30, 1995).

Newport Jai-Alai in Rhode Island opened on June 10 (closed July 13, 2003).


1977

Milford Jai-Alai in Connecticut opened on May 5 (closed December 12, 2001).


1978

Big Bend Jai-Alai in Quincy, Florida (northwest of Tallahassee) opened on January 27 (closed April 11, 1990).

MGM Reno fronton opened in Nevada on May 3 (closed in 1980). Jai-alai programs from this fronton are very rare due to the short time this Jai-Alai was in existence.


2005

Hamilton Jai-Alai in Jasper, Florida (out “in the sticks” near the Georgia border, off I-75, halfway between Tallahassee and Jacksonville) opened on Sept 17 and closed after two seasons.


2017

Kings Court Key Poker Room & Jai-Alai started Jai-Alai in Florida City on June 16.  Kings Court held 64 total games in 2019 over 6 days (from June 25 – July 2) using Dania players on their roster. Kings Court permanently closed its doors in May of 2020 with the last Jai-alai played in June & July of 2019 (only 8-performances of 8-games each).


2018

Magic City Casino Jai-Alai opened July 1.  The pari-mutuel license for greyhound racing (formerly Flagler Dog Track) was converted to a short-court Jai-alai fronton. Interesting roster & exciting action with many former college athletes trained to play the game and even a former NFL Super Bowl winner. Rapidly gaining in popularity, well managed, big jackpots, big money doubles tournaments with exciting live action and past performances available for free on YouTube on The Jai-Alai Channel. Magic City has expanded to offer new H2H (head-to-head) style Jai-Alai games much like the tennis scoring format. Sports wagering is available on H2H games with more states being approved for H2H wagering regularly. H2H games can be seen at “watchjaialai.com” on The Jai-Alai Network and are very exciting and competitive! Magic City also offers several FREE weekly Jai-alai contests for H2H fans with some large cash prizes. Amazing young player Douglas is fascinating to watch with his astonishing high win rate and is known for his incredible mastery of the “Scoop” catch in his short career at Magic City which began in 2019. The 2022 season starts on February 14 and will be the only Jai-Alai fronton in existence in the US. Some Dania players will appear on the increased roster for 2022. A new “World Super Court” doubles tournament open to players of all nationalities will make its Magic City debut in 2022 plus the 3rd annual USNJAC tourney at Magic City, both tournaments a “must-see” for all Jai-Alai fans.


2019

Calder Jai-Alai opened May 22.  The pari-mutuel license for the Calder horse track was converted to a short-court Jai-Alai fronton. Unfortunately very small betting pools with limited simulcast partners and promotion (many refunded betting pools). Games at Calder were discontinued after August 29, 2021, another victim of the decoupling measure which passed in Florida, allowing casinos to operate without having to offer pari-mutuel games.

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