Miss concerts? Casino, sports park can help with Fifties crooners, country and merengue stars
A year and a half of concert drought is about to end in a downpour.
Sax star Kenny G. Rockers Blue Öyster Cult. Crooner Bobby Rydell and his Fifties buds Frankie Avalon and Fabian. Country star Clint Black. Sixties pop darling Peter Noone with Herman's Hermits. And there's more at the Seminole Casino Immokalee concert hall. (A full list appears in the box accompanying this story.)
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The Paradise Coast Sports Complex off Collier Boulevard in Naples is opening its concert season with just one show. But it's a big one: the Ben Allen Band, whose lead singer belted his way almost to the top five on "The Voice" in autumn 2020 and parlayed his fame into a soon-to-open pub and grill in Naples.
Every generation gets a show
For the Seminole Casino Immokalee, bringing more name entertainment was always in its sites.
"Even before the pandemic, we were always well positioned, I think, as the No. 1 entertainment destination in Southwest Florida," said Mike Warren, the casino's vice president of marketing. "Over my years here it was something we continued to ramp up, with the frequency of shows and even the types of shows we offered."
The COVID-19 pandemic stopped that trajectory. But this month, its ZigZag Lounge is once again fielding live entertainment nearly every night, and 10 name concerts are on the books for its concert hall, the Seminole Center, this fall and winter.
"Year after year we continued to add more entertainment here, so I would expect that is going to continue," he said. "Even in the months when we were shut down, we were planning 2022 as if it were going to happen. We have a lot in the works that are yet to come."
The venue had already filled its outside parking lot for starlight shows with Olivia Newton-John and KC and the Sunshine Band. It had brought public shows to its 836-seat indoor hall, Seminole Center, as well as high-level private shows for its club members with stars like Wynonna and Electric Light Orchestra.
The array of stars seems to span a 40-year gamut — 1950s to 1990s. But Warren says the casino wasn't trying to offer entertainment on rotating generational basis.
"It isn't really deliberate. We try to offer what we believe there's an appetite for out there — not to just our customers, but the community. We really look at entertainment as something we're offering back to Southwest Florida," he emphasized. "It isn't just for casino entertainment. We are a bona fide performance venue here."
Stars surprise in intimate setting
One thing Warren especially likes about Seminole Center is the intimacy of the hall: "It's like being in the 'Orchestra' section for every seat."
He has a hard time choosing his own favorite: "The ones that stand out to me are the ones you didn't really know that well before, but then you see them onstage and you're blown away."
"Wynonna just does an exemplary show. And that's one I hadn't seen until she did a show here," Warren said. And he called Dionne Warwick "just extraordinary. Sang her way through the whole show. And she had such chemistry with the audience that she was inspired. She was almost magical, the night she performed here.
"Even her tour manager, who was with her, commented she was just on Cloud Nine in this venue and with her audience."
"I found that out with Here Come the Mummies. I had never heard of them," said Cathy Baker, advertising/public relations manager. The 11-piece band, with its sepulchral wrap costumes and high-instrumentation arrangements, was a hit with her. "I was like, 'I LOVE their music!' They put on such a good show."
But she conceded KC and the Sunshine Band, with its disco-era vibe, was a sentimental favorite. "And they were with The Village People. It was so good."
The casino caters to specialized audiences as well. Cuban-born salsa sweetheart Rey Ruiz is actually the first among its public concerts, here Oct. 16, and it is expecting such crowd for the merengue-salsa stars Elvis Crespo and Charlie Cruz on Nov. 13 that the concert is outdoors, where the venue can accommodate 3,000 — and possibly a few spontaneous dancers.
Another popular specialty concert is for Vietnamese-music audiences, and a "Bao Gió Em Mói Hiéu" (I"m New to You") concert is free, but the 10 p.m. Oct. 9 show is for the casino's Wild Card members.
"So much of Southwest Florida is so spread out. We're drawing from what must be 100 miles of the west coast of Florida, from Marco Island to Port Charlotte and Venice," Warren explained. "There are a lot of people who appreciate Vietnamese music, but they're just so spread out.
"We do cross a lot of categories, but we have a lot of different appetites for live music here," he said. "We're always looking in the comedy category as well."
The casino's first show since its reopening was with a comedian, a private one for data base members starring Rodney Carrington. It has brought in illusionists, too.
Largest show to date: An outdoor rockabilly show and festival, with art, vintage cars, food and at least a dozen bands. It brought between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors, which Warren said "was a real surprise hit for us." A previous salsa concert by Crespo also brought heavy ticket sales, he said.
From Naples, the nearest city, it's 45 minutes to Immokalee, so concertgoers may be looking for dining. There are a number of restaurants, from Italian to Mexican to Chinese, in Immokalee. For those who want to dine at the casino, there are EE-TO-LEET-KE Grill and the First Street Deli, along with a cappuccino stand.
All three, however, are strictly walk-up.
"I wouldn't show up 45 minutes before curtain. You're probably not going to get fed and out the door in time," Warren warned. Ninety minutes pre-show is a better bet, he suggested.
Ben Allen show's a holiday bash
It's not strictly a Fourth of July concert. So the Ben Allen Band, whose star outlasted a good number of contestants on NBC's "The Voice," have made sure its show at Paradise Coast Sports Complex adds to the holiday weekend without interfering with fireworks night in Collier County.
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It's the inaugural show in the stadium, and management is bringing in food trucks and a beverage stands to keep crowds happy after the gates open at 6. VIP tickets at $100 offer a deck level view with a private bar, two free drinks and a buffet dinner.
That's only the beginning, according to Jeff Walters, business development manager. Negotiations are underway for two more concerts that he says have national star power for next fall, but can't reveal the names yet. The complex has instituted a newsletter — visitors to its website can sign up — that will keep concert lovers updated.
If you've never been to the complex, Walters said, it's easy to get a first-hand preview of the layout. The Cove, a spot with fountains, shade, a walking path around its lake and seating close to a play area for children, is open. There's a bar, and 6-9 p.m. weekends are comfortably lively.
"We still have entertainment Friday and Saturday nights, and there's at least one food truck there," he said.
Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com. Reach her at 239-213-6091.
Seminole Casino Immokalee
Rey Ruiz: Oct. 16. $16. Tickets go on sale June 17
Here Come the Mummies: Oct. 22. $45
Clint Black: Oct. 30. $79
Elvis Crespo and Charlie Cruz: Nov. 13. Outdoor venue. Doors open at 6 p.m. $89 VIP, $49 general admission
Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone: Dec. 12. $79
Blue Öyster Cult: Feb. 12. $79
Golden Boys: Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell. March 4. $129
The Guess Who: March 19. $79
Kenny G: April 3. $119
Paradise Coast Sports Complex
The complex is at 3940 City Gate Blvd. N., Naples. Call 239-254-8242 for information or visit sportsforceparksnaples.com
Ben Allen Band: 8 p.m. July 3. Doors open at 6. $10, $20, $40 and suite level at $100. Note: parking is $10 and by credit card only.
Your dream concert
Some of us — no names mentioned — would love to go rock around the stage to George Thorogood and the Destroyers, indoors or out. But who's on the ticket you'd buy?
Tell us your favorite concert artist, and why — maybe a favorite song, or a performance style — for our Southwest Florida music wish list. Please email your wish-list concert artist, or artists to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: My concert star