Friday’s ceremony officially marking the name change of Harrah’s Chester to Harrah’s Philadelphia (see below) is only one of two major events set for the riverside gaming hall this weekend. Saturday’s performance by Southern-rock avatars Lynyrd Skynyrd is, in the overall scheme of things, pretty important, too.
That’s because the gig, which takes place at the racetrack portion of the complex, marks the introduction of the casino as a significant show biz player.
Although Harrah’s has been aggressively booking big (or semi-big) name entertainment since January, promotion has been low-key. Now, it’s ready to establish itself as a regional venue.
“We did it as a result of customer research,” explained Ron Baumann, the property’s senior vice president and general manager. “We asked them what would compel them to come to the property.”
To facilitate the move to a regular schedule of performances, the existing ballroom was converted into the kind of multi-use Event Center that is increasingly the industry norm. “We are looking to do 20 shows this year, half are already booked,” said Baumann.
Currently, the casino’s Web site (which as of Thursday still had www.harrahschester.com as its URL) lists 10 concerts, mostly featuring R&B and classic rock acts (e.g. Tony! Toni! Tone! May 25, Keyshia Cole, July 14 and Creedence Clearwater Revisted July 6. Though not yet on sale, Foreigner is booked Oct. 20). Those looking for something even more vintage for their sonic palates can catch “Great American Songbook” acolyte Michael Feinstein May 27.
There will also be some boxing and Mixed Martial Arts events in the Event Center.
While the Event Center’s seating capacity maxes out at 950 (less for in-the-round sporting events), the racetrack holds 3,000. Ticketholders will be seated in the grandstand with the stage set up on the track’s infield and the Delaware River in the background. “It doesn’t get any better than ‘Freebird’ by the river,” noted Baumann, in reference to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature song.
In addition to Saturday’s concert, Baumann said he hopes to do two to four more outdoor shows this year.
Speaking of al fresco music, the younger crowd will be catered to primarily by The Patio, an outdoor bar located on the grandstand’s terrace. The club will showcase the region’s top bar bands, among them Don’t Call Me Francis, Mr. Greengenes and Lefty Lucy.
For a complete list of concerts, go to www.harrahschester.com.
Who cut the cheesesteak?
That would be former Eagles (the football team, not the band) stars Brian Westbrook and Jeremiah Trotter, fast food impresario Tony Luke Jr. (who is opening an outlet at Harrah’s) and world-class competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. They’ll be joining Baumann for the cutting of a 12-foot cheesesteak Friday at 2:30 p.m. to officially re-christen the gaming hall.
The festivities will also include live music and free cheesesteak sampling.
Two more new venues
This is a big-make that historic—week for the region’s casino entertainment scene. In addition to Harrah’s, both Sands Casino-Resort in Bethlehem and revel will be debuting their performance spaces.
Wednesday, the Sands’ Event Center begins a four-shows-in-four-nights run with alt-metalists Incubus christening the auditorium that will seat up to 3,500 for concerts, boxing and the like. They’ll be followed Thursday by The Beach Boys' reunion tour (featuring guiding genius Brian Wilson on board for the first time since right after the Civil War). Glen Frey of The Eagles (the band, not the football team) on May 18 and country stalwart Alan Jackson May 19 round out the premier-week.
And downnashore, Revel’s 5,050-seat Ovation Hall opens May 18 with Maroon 5. The following night, The Black Keys headline. For Sands and Revel tix, call 800-736-1420, or go to www.ticketmaster.com.
Wine tasting on a budget
Carmine’s, the popular Italian eatery at The Quarter inside Tropicana Atlantic City, is staging a wine-tasting event Tuesday. While such events are fairly common in AyCee, the twist here is the price.
From 5 to 7 p.m., the restaurant will offer a flight of five different wines paired with samples of Southern Italian cuisine for a mere $12. Featured wineries include White Haven from New Zealand, Apothic and Louis M. Martini from California and La Marca from Italy.
Reservations (required) can be had by calling 609-572-9300.