Thursday, December 17, 2009

That's Right, I Saved Orlando Jai Alai

Let's check the timeline.

Saturday - Orlando Jai Alai celebrates the closing of the building with a fantastic Citrus Invitational.

Monday - I start writing a post about jai alai.

Tuesday - I post the column.

Wednesday - News stations announce that a mysterious person has an agreement in place to become the new owner and jai alai will resume in February.

It's quite clear my blog is the catalyst for everything.

That, my fellow readers, is a prime example of a logical fallacy. It really is the only thing I remember from Psychology 101 in college. At least I remembered something.

The real story is that this unknown person with "deep pockets" was impressed with the play over the weekend and announced his intentions to buy the building over the weekend. The employees were told Monday that they would not be losing their job at the end of the month. I had seen rumors pop up on a couple of jai alai message boards while I was writing my column, but nothing official was confirmed.

The good news is that Orlando Jai Alai will be around for at least another season. The as yet to be named buyer is planning on the fronton being able to secure card games (i.e. poker) which most experts see as key to the survival of the building.

The fact that poker games aren't allowed in Seminole County (which is where the building is located) is kind of a minor hurdle that has to be cleared. The fact that neither the fronton in the past or the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club have been able to get past this minor problem is a bit of a concern that can be debated at a later time.

For now, let's celebrate the fact that someone saw something in the play this weekend that inspired him to plunk down some money and save something. Officials are hoping the deal is finished by January 1st so that the eight week season can begin in February.

Securing card games will be very important to the survival of the sport in Orlando, that's not a disputable point. There has to be a reason to bring people in the building and right now poker and blackjack, along with slot games, bring people in to gamble.

Even I game to be a fan of jai alai in a roundabout way. I didn't set foot in Tampa Jai Alai to watch the "merry festival". I was there because they were showing a boxing match that we couldn't get in our dorm room. I want to say it was a Julio Cesar Chavez fight, but my memory fails me right now (damn college drinking!).

Getting people in the door is the first step, once they're in the play of the game has to bring them back. That means the talant level has to be there. Orlando trails Dania and Miami when it comes to the overall level of it's play. Let's face it,when Gino is one of your tournament backcourters you need to step it up.

So challenge number one for the new owner will be working out an agreement to bring better players either from Europe or the other frontons in the state. He would also need to develop local talant as well. The players on the court are closer to 40 or even 50 then they are to 25. Younger, more exciting players would strenghten the play and keep more fans.

Challange number two would be marketing the sport correctly. That means facebook, twitter, you tube videos, a better web site, etc., etc. Find local or national advisors to place advertisements on the wall or padding. Improve the on-site restaurant so that it's worth a dinner out. Find a presence on the local college campuses. UCF isn't that far away and it's one of the larger colleges in the nation. God knows college kids like the hipster, throwback to the '50 & '60s act now more than ever. Appeal to that trend.

This post dragged on a little longer than I expexted. I inteneded to just post the "I saved jai alai" joke and then move on, and now I've delved into marketing plans.

So I'll leave you with this. If you find yourself in the Orlando area in February, take a night and head over to Castleberry (about 20 minutes from Disney) and give jai alai a chance.

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