Shuffleboard arrived in St. Petersburg in 1923 when Phineas Ives, a Connecticut jeweler, visited here. He played shuffleboard on the east coast of Florida, enjoyed it, and wanted to play more. Mr. Ives urged the city to build courts in Mirror Lake Park, and that fall two were built, right in front of where the present day clubhouse stands.
In 1924 a group of shuffleboard players — six in all — organized what they called the St. Petersburg Mirror Lake Park Shuffleboard Club, the first strictly shuffleboard club in the world. In time, it became the largest club of its kind in the world and at its high point, the club boasted 8,000 members who played on more than 100 courts!
Over the years, however, the club fell on hard times. The rise and fall of the local economy, decreases in membership, the creation of community and recreations centers, more people moving away from the city and neglect of the physical facility all contributed, in varying degrees, to its decline.
In 2005, however, a group of young artists known as The Artillery took up the game and joined forces with preservationists to host Friday night games. At the outset, about 35 members of the group would gather at the club on Friday nights, with friends and families, to play shuffleboard. The public was invited to play for free on Friday nights (members could play any time). The growing numbers drew renewed attention to the club and led to some $150,000 of repairs in 2008.
Today the 93-year old club has over 600 members. Younger people are taking an interest in the game and the city is taking an interest in the club and its courts. Hooray to St. Petersburg and its famous shuffleboard club!
559 Mirror Lake Drive, N.; 727.822.2083; www.stpeteshuffle.com
Remembering St. Petersburg, by Andrew N. Edel
The Great Outdoors Book of Shuffleboard: Those Capricious Discs, by Floyd Swem
Secrets of Shuffleboard Strategy: Happiness is Shuffleboard, by Omero C Catan