A group of passionate enthusiasts is now trying to save jai-alai. This game originated in France and Spain, but was adopted by Miami in the 1970s and 1980s.
Magic City Casino is where jai alai will be playing. This is the last professional venue that the game is played. John Travolta and Paul Newman are gone. They no longer have the famed fans who crowded into smoke-filled grandstands to see elite athletes throw a goatskin ball, called a pelota, in a three-walled fronton (court) at 130 mph (210 km/h).
A few dozen close family members and die-hard supporters turned out instead for the match. In the age of YouTube and online gambling, live wagering, which was once the mainstay of the sport, has ceased to be a major source. Many of the top players in the game who once made the long journey across the Atlantic have left their wicker cestas, curved baskets that allow for throwing and catching, behind. This has created a gap that is difficult to fill with local talent.
The only thing that has made you fall so far is the fact that there is only one direction to go.
Scott Savin, chief operating officer at Magic City, stated that "we're pretty confident there is a future." "At least we have a present so that means we have the fighting chance of a future."
The fate of the sport is determined by the shoulders and extended rotator wrist cuffs of Magic City's 28 athletes. After a fronton at Dania Beach casino ended its seven-decade-long run, seven of them -- all from Spain, France, and the Philippines -- were hired.
Inaki Goitiandia was one of the foreign players who took up the sport when she was 10. Jai alai was a favourite pastime when he was growing up in Markina-Xemein, northern Spain. As an adult, he followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather to Miami, where he and Julen became a magnet for top players for many decades.
Goitiandia exclaimed, "This is where you can make your living playing jai alai," after he won an exhausting round-robin match of doubles.
These are ex-collegiate and high school athletes who have learned the game and struggle with basic skills like catching the ball.
After playing football at University of Miami's football program, Tanard Davis was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. He moved to Atlanta to pursue a career as a law enforcement officer after his NFL career ended. He was one of the Hurricanes' alumni to respond to an email blast asking for volunteers from the Havenick family, major donors to UM athletics.
Davis was grateful to have the chance to don a uniform again and feel the adrenaline rush.
Davis, 39, said that it was like Davis versus Lebron James in high school basketball. He is also one of the most fit and oldest players. I don't have a chance, but I want as much as possible.
Magic City reduced the traditional fronton to nearly 60 feet (18 metres) and replaced it with a goatskin ball that is as hard as a hockey puck. The bouncier pelota ricochets against glass instead of the granite wall. Magic City is also trying out new rules and creating Battle Court matches that resemble head-to-head singles tennis.
This goal is to reach younger online bettors who are no longer interested in win-place-show betting. Content deals on free, advertising-supported platforms means games are reaching a potential audience of 115 million households and Magic City has teamed with platform BetRivers for online betting in seven states.
Do you want your own sports franchise? Sponsoring a team with catchy names such as the Wall Warriors or the Cesta Cyclones will cost you $100,000. This is a great deal for a niche sport that has a fan base somewhere between the WNBA, and Canadian football.
He said, "It's crawl walk run -- but I think that we got past crawl."
For the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, the first jai alaifronton was constructed. The game was also played in many other states during its peak. It was strongest in Florida where pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, greyhounds, and jai alai is legal since the 1930s.
The lottery was first allowed in Florida in 1980, and the long-term decline of the game began. After that, a players' strike lasted more than two decades. Competition from federally-protected Indian reservations also took a toll.
Governor. Last year, Ron DeSantis made a deal that gave the Seminole tribe (which already owns the state's largest casinos) a monopoly on online sports betting. Casinos are now allowed to offer poker and slot machines, but no longer have to be licensed to provide expensive pari-mutuel services.
Benny Bueno is a former jai-alai player and oversees player operations at The Casino on Dania Beach. He attributes the decline in the sport's betting model to its outdated, which relies heavily on live audiences for profits.
He hopes jai-alai can return to simpler grounds, even if they are less lucrative. Dania Beach will host a 10-day exhibition tournament called Battle at the Palace starting Friday. This will be less than a year since the last regulation game. He hopes it will revive a full-fledged league in time for the 70th anniversary of the fronton in December.
Bueno stated that the support of fans made it difficult for South Florida's rich history to end. However, the owners decided to give it another chance.
Bueno's young son, Bueno, is trying to keep the Magic City game alive. Chris Bueno was a keen fan of basketball and baseball as a child. He only attempted jai alai when he was 27, and was a UPS supervisor.
Bueno, younger, said that everyone loves jai alai like his dad. Some people don't even know how to.