Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jai-Alai Fronton is Saved from Closing

I had heard a report that the Jai - AlaiFronton in Casselberry was going to close and it's last day was to be December 27th, several days after Christmas. The facility has 75 full time employees. I decided to go and sketch on this final day of betting. When I arrived I bought the one dollar ticket and went through the turnstile. I was told I would have to have security check my bag of sketch supplies. The security guy was located on the far side of a fast food stand almost hidden from sight. I held the bag open and he lazily nodded his approval. I took the escalator to the second floor and I heard the sound of the Jai-Alai ball being tossed around. Three men were on the court and there wasn't a soul in the stadium seating. I watched for a while but I don't know the rules and they looked like they were just practicing. No lights were on but I noticed a men's room so I decided to use it before I got to the third floor off track betting area. Then when I was leaving I discovered the bathroom door had locked behind me!
I tried turning the door knob in different ways figuring it might have a trick to it. I couldn't believe it. I was locked in and the floor was deserted. I started trying other doors in the men's room figuring there might be another way out. I opened the far back door and it looked like a broom closet for the janitors. The closet itself had a door and I tried it. That door lead out to a tight metal spiral staircase. I decided this was my only option so I stepped out onto it. Old candy wrappers and potato ship bags crunched under my feet. I had to wonder why there was so much garbage in a stairwell. I wound my way up to the third floor. At the top of the steps I found myself in the employees area behind the betting cages where they take money. A guard stood with his back to me at the swinging door which lead out to the betting floor. I said "Excuse me." and squeezed past him.
Out on the betting floor I let out a sigh and immediately started sketching. When I was about half finished a security officer approached me and said "Can I help you". My stomach tensed. He had no intention of helping me. He pointed out that I had been behind the betting counters and that I would have to leave. I explained the situation with the bathroom but his mind was stuck on only the one detail of my story, I had been behind the counter and that is State property. He seemed to feel that being back there is punishable by imprisonment or leaving the facility. He felt I had been acting strangely since I arrived in the Fronton. As he said this the men standing behind him were shouting "Common 4, common, go, go 4 go. You can do it! Ooooh mother f*#&^%$!" I thought it funny that he found my sketching to be strange behavior. I continued to reason with him but he returned again and again to the fact that I had been behind the counter.
Actually my talk with him turned into a bit of an interview in the form of an argument. I found out that the Fronton was NOT going to close since an unnamed buyer had come in and bought the facility. The new buyer is possibly going to bring card rooms to the now rundown facility. The security guard eventually decided I wasn't worth the trouble and he left, or rather stood a short distance away watching my every move. A food vendor named Valerie walked over to see what I was up to. She was glad the place was going to stay open. She had worked here for years. The sale of the Fronton isn't final yet, and if it falls through another date will be announced for its final day.

8 comments:

Rick said...

Glad you escaped the bathroom! What a great story!

Joseph Hayes said...

Admit it, you were sneaking around back there trying to steal a pelota!

Aly said...

Cool pics!!

Thor said...

Oh, I had to look up in the dictionary to figure out what a pelota is, and no I wasn't looking for a Jai Alai ball or any fallen cash on the floor. If anyone wants to see the room where they count all the betting money I can lead the way.

Caroline said...

Exciting stuff, and a great sketch, but I really don't understand what the betting place is, what are they betting on? and it looks so vast!

Thor said...

Caroline, Sorry they are all looking at TV screens that are showing hoarse races from around the country. Honestly I do not understand what is going on myself.

Caroline said...

Thanks for clearing that up- it's a world I have little knowledge of.. nor am I interested, fortunately- I'm poor enough!

Thor said...

Indeed. Go in with little and leave with nothing. I only placed one bet in my life. It was on the Kentucky Derby Horse Race. I think I bet $5. I lost. I have no interest in loosing more.