SPORTS AND RECREATION
BECAUSE of its moderate climate and natural physical advan tages Miami became known from its beginning as a pleasant place in which to live. As the city grew, its leaders combined to provide recreational facilities that might appeal to people of all ages and tastes, whether in search of health, relaxation, or a holiday of strenuous excitement. In addition to facilities provided by nature surf bathing, fishing, and hunting nearly every form of recrea tion, even ice-skating, has been so developed that the name Miami has become a synonym for play. This means that Miamians and their guests may elect to be spectators at formal events, or if they choose, actively participate in games, contests, or other forms of amusement.
Public parks and playgrounds are designed to provide diversified pleasure for winter visitors. Bayfront Park, and Miami Lummus Park, are convenient to the downtown area. Numerous neighbor hood parks make adequate provisions for diamond ball, baseball, football, and tennis. The annual Miami Relay Olympics, partici pated in by many Florida high school athletes, are held at Moore Park. During the contests a miniature Olympic village is con structed to house the contestants. Among the featured football games staged in the Roddey Burdine Stadium is the Orange Bowl game played each New Year's Day.
Besides the recreational activities offered in Miami s parks there are those of a more sedentary nature. The Civic Center at 3 5 North West Second Street is a favorite meeting place for the social minded. Groups of visitors from each state are organized into state societies or clubs and dances and card parties are a major pastime. One of the special programs held at the Civic Center is the flower show. Miniature model gardens, art and butterfly collections, tropical wood oddit ; es, flowers from foreign lands, and rare and exotic orchids including the finest collections ever displayed in the South, all combine to make this one of the most colorful events of the season.
Another widely attended event is the annual All-American Air Meet held at the Municipal Airport, usually during December. Ordinarily a pageant precedes the formal opening and, every after noon., bands and drill units of various organizations give performances between the scheduled events. Each day s activities are concluded by Army and Navy dances and other entertainment for officials and visitors who are in Miami during the maneuvers.
These are but a few of a long calendar of events sponsored by the city in an effort to make this area the finest playground and pleasure resort in the world. To accomplish this aim Miami offers a wide and varied entertainment program that is supplemented by a list of spectacular events staged by private corporations. Invest ments and expenditures devoted to sports and recreation total more than 45 million dollars annually.
Topping the list of lavish display and expenditures is horse racing. Two fine tracks draw an average daily crowd of nearly 10,000 spectators during the 96-day racing season and every day these fans toss more than $350,000 into the pari-mutuel betting pool.
Every afternoon throughout the season, long lines of automobiles converge in a veritable sea of cars at the race track parking grounds. The stands and clubhouse fill with gay excited patrons who seem never to tire of the sport. Perhaps it is the banks of tropical flowers that attract them. It may be the wide lawns, the fleecy clouds above the palms, or the exotic water birds. The subdued chatter of the crowd rises sharply as the thorough breds come out on the track for the first race. As the horses, led by a red-coated steward, parade before the stands, the people begin to mill. Long lines form before the betting windows. Here and there an old hand calmly studies the field through his binoculars and notes the betting odds on the "tote" board across the track. As the horses gather at the post the great crowd becomes quiet. They are almost silent as the line-up takes definite form. Then a roar goes up as the horses leave the barrier. The clamoring bell that marks the official start can scarcely be heard above the excited cries of the multitude. In the press box, veteran observers follow the horses through field glasses, reporting their respective positions at each pole.
And as the shadows lengthen across the park and less ardent fans begin to drift toward their cars, the strident, high-pitched voice of some bettor still rises above the voice of the cheering multitude as he "hollers his horse home" in the last race. The day is over. Cars stream from the parking lots toward the town as their occupants discuss the events of the day. Some have won; some have lost; but they all come back, hoping to make a "killing." At night, man s other favorite, the dog, takes the center of the stage. The scene shifts to the various kennel clubs where power ful flood lights illuminate every corner of the tracks and throw into sharp relief the lean muscled greyhounds and the fleeting me chanical rabbit. The same gay crowds, always ready to chance another dollar, fill the stands and stream out over the promenades and terraces.
Above the din of music and the surge of voices, a bugle sounds and the ceremonies begin. Elaborately uniformed attendants parade the dogs before the throng, pause a moment before the judges stand for a last minute inspection of the racers and then file smartly away to the starting boxes. There is a hush, the sound of the me chanical rabbit speeding along the electric rail, and the swelling thunder of cheers as the gaunt hounds leap from their cages and flash into action.
Another sport, in which betting is likewise legalized, is Jai-alai (Hi-li), a Spanish game somewhat on the order of hand-ball. Jai-alai was evolved from an ancient game played by driving a ball against the wall of a village church. At first this was done with the bare hand. Later the game was played in an open court with a flat bat.
The modern game is played by opposing single or double teams on a paved court in a specially constructed building called a fronton. The ball is served against an end wall and, as in tennis, must rebound into marked areas within the court. Each player wears a gauntlet from which projects a long, curved, basket-like implement known as the "cesta." The player catches the ball in the cesta and, in the same uninterrupted motion, hurls it back into play.
The players, usually Cubans, are skilled through years of practice and play with incredible speed. Spectators in the stands are pro tected by a floor-to-ceiling screen on the open side of the court. As the score varies during the game so do the betting odds fluctuate from moment to moment. Between games, music for dancing is furnished by a Spanish or Cuban orchestra.
Another widely patronized sport in the Miami area is golf. Eleven courses are maintained for the convenience of those who find 12 months of practice each year none too many for the good of their game. The skill of the world s greatest golfers is tested on Miami s courses. Jones, Hagen, Sarazen, Runyan, Dutra, Smith and other nationally known players have been featured in Miami tournaments. Nearly all the golf courses in the area are available to tourists. A quieter form of recreation, though no less gay, is found in the night life of Miami s many clubs and bars. Famed bands, star of screen, stage, and radio, expensive appointments and extravagances in tune with the prodigality of the tropics, all contribute to the merrymaking. For the more romantic are the outdoor dances on shining terrazza floors with muted music and soft lights aloft in the restless palms.