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.  Jai-Alai is still played at “Casino Miami” with a short 2-month season from December to January and currently features a few big names in the world of Jai-Alai on the roster. Player Goiko dominates the Miami stats with an excellent win rate for the 2020/21 meet and Dania’s Erik is also competing.


1938

Jai-Alai was introduced at the Hippodrome in New York, NY on September 8, but play only lasted for one season.


1953

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

Dania Jai-Alai in Florida opened on December 23.  Jai-Alai continues at “Casino @ Dania Beach” throughout much of the year except for a summer break and a break from mid-December through the end of January. Dania Jai-Alai shut-down after the March 15, 2020 performance due to covid-19 pandemic. They reopened the 2020 Fall Meet on Thursday, October 1 after a 2-week delay through December 13, 2020. Check The Casino @ Dania Beach website for the latest updates and schedule information.


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 is currently operating with a controversial Jai-Alai format (two amateurs playing against each other ~40x a year to fulfill the minimal requirements to keep the pari-mutuel facility operating).


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 still maintains a small Jai-Alai presence to maintain the license (schedule info is hard to find).


1974

Fort Pierce Jai-Alai in Florida opened on April 11.  Currently called “Casino Fort Pierce” and maintains a small Jai-Alai presence with only 5-players on the roster and play for one month a year in June.

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).


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 to July 2) using Dania players on their roster. Kings Court is now permanently closed (May 25, 2020 update).


2018

Magic City Casino Jai-Alai opened July 1.  The pari-mutuel license for greyhound racing (formerly Flagler Dog Track) was converted to a Jai-Alai fronton.  Very interesting roster & exciting Jai-Alai action with former highly trained athletes in various sports, even a former NFL Super Bowl winner and a major-league baseball pitcher, who were trained to play the game of Jai-Alai and are competing against each other. This evolving short-court American Jai-Alai Program is rapidly gaining in popularity and is very well-managed. Magic City Jai-Alai offers several big jackpot wagers ($2k guaranteed Jai-5 and the $4k guaranteed Mighty Ocho), two Pick 3’s, multiple $15k Doubles Tournaments and a $30k Singles Championship with the live Jai-Alai action and past performances available in HD on The Jai-Alai Channel on YouTube, which makes for some very exciting action-packed entertainment! Magic City even offers a FREE Magic City Fantasy League for fan competition with weekly prizes (go to fantasyjaialai.com to sign up). 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. Douglas’s younger brother, 17-yo Ben, is a new addition to the 2021 roster and is playing under the name “Benny” at Magic City Jai-Alai for this 4th season which started February 6th with an additional 10-weeks of Jai-Alai through April 12. The regular 2021 season with 6-performances a week runs from May 1 through November 30th. The 2021 roster also includes two experienced Jai-Alai professionals from other South Florida frontons: Spinner from Dania Jai-Alai and Julen from Casino Miami Jai-Alai. Jai-Alai H2H a new type of head-to-head singles games debuted on February 8th, 2021. Watch these special games every Monday & Tuesday from 10 am – noon on The Jai-Alai Channel.


2019

Calder Jai-Alai opened May 22.  The pari-mutuel license for the Calder horse track was converted to a Jai-Alai fronton.  The 2019 schedule included games in May, June, August, and September. Limited simulcast partners and promotion has hurt attendance and betting pools are very small or nonexistent (many refunded betting pools). Calder is not a viable wagering option for Jai-Alai fans unless significant changes occur. Games are slated to resume in May 2021. Check the Calder Jai-Alai website for the latest updates and schedule information.

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