Florida To Lose 1941 Shuffleboard Courts

A 70-year-old shuffleboard court in Kissimmee, Fla., will be demolished this spring as part of the city's redevelopment of a 25-acre park.

"It's a shame because it's the only shuffle court around here," says Gerald Lemenager, one of 100 members of the Kissimmee Allstate Tourist Club, which meets there weekly. "It doesn't make any money, but it isn't supposed to make money. It's supposed to satisfy the senior citizens."

The city says the improved park will draw more people to the area. It plans to demolish the courts next month, according to Dan Loubier, director of the city's parks and recreation department. "The park will be open and available to all citizens and visitors without membership and since the pavilion will be open to all for any type of activity rather than shuffleboard only, yes, I believe our citizens and visitors will use the area more than it is being used today," he said in an e-mail. "The area is currently being used by approximately 80 members and is only used occasionally during the winter months for shuffleboard."

This month, Florida resident Rick Kilby launched a Facebook group, Save Our Shuffleboard, to raise awareness not only for the building but also for the sport.

"There are great facilities like this from all over the state that are in the same situation," Kilby says. "It's a great family game. So much attention was devoted to curling during the Olympics, and curling is just like shuffleboard on ice."

Nonetheless, it's too late to save the courts. Bulldozers are already on site, preparing for the $25 million makeover of Lakefront Park on Lake Tohopekaliga, a project that has been in the works for four years.

While the green courts will be destroyed, the open-air pavilion that houses them will remain as a picnic facility for Lakefront Park.

"There are times that public officials make decisions to enhance the quality of life of its citizens– this is one of them," said Mayor Jim Swan at the Feb. 20 groundbreaking ceremony. "It's been a long time coming. This is the crown jewel of our community that is being polished. It is the park for the people."

In 2006 the city's Parks and Recreation and Development Services Department held a series of public meetings about the park improvements, and about 300 people attended, according to the city's Web site. "No city project in my memory has had as much public input–and that's as it should be," Swan said in a statement.

Some shuffleboard club members attended those meetings, according to Lemanger, "but it didn't seem to accomplish too much."

In nearby St. Petersburg, however, locals got wind of the city's plans to develop their shuffleboard courts and decided to open the court to the public every a Friday night. "Shuffle Night" is now a popular event, and there are no plans to raze the court.

"It's unfortunate because if we had done what they did in St. Pete, we probably could have saved it," Kilby says.

Kissimmee's parks department has asked the shuffleboarders to leave by Mar. 17. Lemanger will play his last game on Friday.

"I'm still fighting it," he says. "I know it won't do much good, but I'm going to keep putting my two cents in."


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Submitted by Jim at: April 18, 2011
I thi that age discrimination would be a good argument. But let the truth be told, you don't take something that is not yours. My reasons are very high to believe, that senior citizens that belong to the cassest club. Since over 70 years would lie about who was the original owners, of this property. People cared back then, had alot of dignity and a lot of respect toward man kind these people have been here for a very long time. They watched the city of Kissimmee grow, are we re-living the past? When we stole land from the Indians. Is man kind now turning on each other? For the all mighty buck. If anybody hasn't noticed the state of Florida especially in Orlando this happens to be one of the greatest spots on earth for retires. There is a lot of senior citizens, living in our great state that play a significant role in our life. We owe them much more then this. Think about it?

Submitted by San Antonio Silver Fox at: March 25, 2010
I think its a shame to close a place that's so much a traditional activity and socializing locus for these seniors.As people age their options for exercise is limited but essential to their well being. Also, this offers a central place for essential social networking for them. Keeping seniors socialized keeps them engaged in life and this is of fundamental importance to all of society. Keep those courts open. At least some of them. Its part of their history. Its essential to their future.

Submitted by Bob at: March 24, 2010
Has anyone thought of attacking the city's plan legally using age discrimination as an argument. The city has programs for kids, teens, adults, etc., but nothing for seniors...???

Submitted by Pat at: March 24, 2010
It is just like cities and government. They love to tear things down in the name of progress. They don't care what the people want. Over the years they have gotten so powerful they don't care what people want. They seem to know what we want more than we do. It is a shame that they have forgotten how to listen to the people.

Submitted by Steve at: March 24, 2010
Couldn't two courts be saved? Seems like a compromise might be in order here, rather than an all-or-nothing answer...