Commission approves new plan for Dania Jai-Alai fronton
DANIA BEACH — The City Commission gave its collective nod to the proposed expansion of the Dania Jai-Alai fronton — including a casino, hotel, restaurants, shops, a marina and fewer jai-alai seats.
“Let’s get this thing moving on, let’s get this thing back on the road because it’s been kind of run down for the last 10 or 15 years. So let’s do it,” City Commissioner Charles McElyea said of the plan to update the 58-year-old fronton.
After hearing from a packed house of city residents who in fairly equal measure welcomed the expanded gaming facility and regarded it with skepticism, commissioners unanimously approved it 5-0.
Construction could begin by year’s end, with a completion date of February 2013.
Up till now, Dania Jai-Alai has been the only Broward County pari-mutuel without slot machines. Currently it offers poker and simulcast horse and greyhound races.
Plans call for 1,800 slot machines in a 60,000-square-foot casino; a cabana club; a two-building hotel with a total of 500 rooms; retail shops, various restaurants, bars, lounges and poker rooms, and a 60-slip marina on the Dania Cut Canal.
A city shuttle would run from Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to the pari-mutuel.
Seating for jai-alai games will be cut from 5,000 seats to 1,600, and the playing area could also be converted into a live-performance stage.
Dania Entertainment Center LLC agreed to buy the 49-acre pari-mutuel for $80 million from The Boyd Gaming Corp. in May. The sale is anticipated to close this fall.
“Much wonderful money” stands to be made by both the city and the developer, said Debbie Orshefsky, representing Dania Entertainment Center. “Our success will be your success.”
She estimated $1,889,000 in gaming-tax revenue to the city; $1,667,000 to the county and $39,576,000 to the state.
The project would bring 1,251 construction jobs and 1,824 permanent jobs – with priority going to city residents — after the facility opened, Orshefsky said.
City resident Dick Sokol said he liked the sound of that: “Let’s make all the money that we can. Look at the jobs that will be here.”
Yet Henry Saludes, another city resident, worried that the jobs would be largely “low-paying, low-skilled jobs in the service sector” and the casino would “be like a black hole” sucking up any and all business from surrounding restaurants, retail shops and commercial ventures.
Albert Frevola, an attorney with the Conrad Scherer law firm, opposed the project on behalf of Citizens for Responsible Growth: “This thing is happening too quickly without sufficient information for the citizens to make informed decisions.”
In an impassioned counterpoint, city resident Chickie Brandimarte, said the project couldn’t get off the ground “soon enough.”
“I am all for gambling,” Brandimarte said. “Get this job going and get the job done.”