MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – If you were asked what Miami Beach is known for, would handball come to mind? Probably not, but it should.
Handball was big at Flamingo Park – that is until the courts fell into disrepair. Now, the city has restored them to their former glory in hopes that players will return.READ MORE: Miami PD Needs Help Locating 68-Year-Old Gwendolyn Spencer
“It was like my dad was bigger than life playing this game,” Shepard Koster recalled of watching his dad.
He grew up in Miami but has since moved to Los Angeles. He flew in for a special dedication of the new refurbished courts on Tuesday.
The handball courts at Flamingo Park once showcased some of the best handball players in the country, including Koster’s Dad.
“He was so amazing to watch, and I had a front-row view from the time I was a wee little lad, with my brother, and we were so proud of him.”
Powerhouse Abe Koster won the 1972 Miami Beach Handball Tournament. He played nearly every day after he came home from working his job as a bus driver. He was active from the 1970s to the late 90s.
“All we knew was our dad was this big guy here, everybody loved him, turned out later he was kind of legendary,” Koster remembered.
Abe Koster, along with dozens of other players, helped to make the courts a well-known staple.
“People come here just to find players on the court and play,” Koster remembered.READ MORE: Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Bill That Bans 'Picketing And Protesting' Outside A Person's Home
Over the years, the courts deteriorated, and players stopped showing up.
“They were so run down that we didn’t even play on them, the floors were corrugated so the ball wouldn’t bounce correctly,” Miguel Carson, a handball player, told CBS4.
Yet, during the courts’ peak, it would take an hour to get a court, now it’s hard to even find players.
“Well, I hate to say it, but it’s not as popular,” he admitted.
There’s a chance the old allure may come back. The city has recently completed resurfacing the courts, added new lighting and improved drainage. The courts are like new again.
“It’s all about short steps, quick movements, being where the ball is going to be,” James O’Rouke explained.
And it’s also a simple sport that nearly anyone can play. All you need is a proper handball, and to hit the ball against the wall so your opponent can’t return it. Though strategy can help.
“Slow the game down, take it up, have a lot of power,” O’Rourke explained.MORE NEWS: Commissioners Approve $2 Million Insurance Settlement In Surfside Condo Collapse
The passion for some have spanned decades, and some of them would love to see more people come out – though don’t expect to win to come easy.