MIAMI (CBSMiami) — At Magic City Jai Alai, opening day on Friday went off without a hitch and without any fans.
The place was bound and determined to make it happen even if it meant implementing some extreme protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As players checked in they were greeted with the new normal.
Their temperatures were taken, and they were told to spread out.
The locker rooms are closed forcing players to set up their own personal space out in the open.
Magic City is convinced this will work.
“By employing social distancing back here and minimum contact by playing singles only on the court we feel there’s a pretty good chance that we can get through this whole process healthy and have a fantastic 2020 season,” said Stu Neiman, Director of Jai Alai Operations.
Once the games begin players sometimes cannot help but get close, but the fronton insists its going above and beyond to keep them safe.
“No one will touch the ball with a bare hand, the players will be wearing those gloves that I mentioned before, when the ball comes off the court, it’s going to be sanitized in a soapy solution with bleach in it. And it’s not going to be touched for two days after that,” explained Neiman.
The athletes, who were itching to compete, don’t sound worried about any potential health risk.
“Me personally, you know, I’ve taken the required precautions, but I’m not I’m not worried about it,” said Chris “Bueno” Bueno.
“Very thoughtful on how they have all of us separated, make sure that we have at least more probably at least 10 feet apart from each other. Everything that we need to get out of our locker room we’re going to be able to have right out here,” said Darryl “Tennessee” Rogue.
The games will be streamed online, so fans can still watch and bet.
It’s not lost on anyone there that Jai Alai could benefit right now since it is the only game in town.
“It can give us more of a resurgence to get viewership on that from people who watch basketball because there’s no NBA. There’s football, they already had the draft but there’s no rookie minicamp, so people can actually watch the sport that shows all aspects of being an athlete,” said Tanard “Jeden” Davis.
“It’s a game in town. I think everyone’s sick of watching ten-year-old replays of a baseball game or watching a cherry pit spitting contest on ESPN,” said Scott Savin, Magic City Casino Chief Operating Officer. “I think we’re a little bit better than that. So hopefully people like what they see.”
Savin says other sports like Major League baseball are keeping a watchful eye on how well Jai Alai pulls this off. After all, sports with heavy strings attached may be better than no sports at all.