By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
NORTHFIELD: Former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula capitalized on his famous name by opening upscale steakhouses in south Florida and his hometown of Cleveland.
Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka did the same in the Windy City.
Following in those footsteps, Cleveland Browns legend Bernie Kosar is entering the premium steakhouse game.
Kosar announced Thursday that he’ll lend his name to Kosar’s Wood-Fired Grill at the new Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, a racino slated to open in December.
The restaurant will include memorabilia on display from Kosar’s playing days.
Brock Milstein, chairman and chief executive officer of Northfield Park, said it made sense to marry the celebrity of Hard Rock and Kosar.
“As someone who was born and raised here and grew up watching the Browns, there is no bigger icon,” he said. “There is no one who’s more beloved and there’s no one who represents our pride, our sense of community and our perseverance as a region more than Bernie Kosar.”
Kosar, who played college football at the University of Miami, said he came to know the Seminole tribe, which owns the Orlando-based Hard Rock International, and the Milstein family through the years.
“I’m just incredibly honored to be a part of this,” he said.
The partnership was announced during a news conference outside the racino that also included an update on the $265 million racino project, which is still under construction.
Milstein, Kosar, racino President Jon Lucas and others signed a white ceremonial beam that will be on display at the gambling facility.
Construction workers took a break from their jobs to watch the event, which politicians and other onlookers also attended.
Lucas also announced that the Rocksino will hold its first job fair Sept. 12. The facility is expected to employ about 700 workers.
Other details about the hiring process are expected to be released next week.
The Rocksino, located next to the Northfield Park harness track along state Route 8, will be filled with about 2,300 slots-like video lottery terminals, a comedy club, the steakhouse, a buffet, a Hard Rock Live music venue and a Hard Rock Cafe.
It will house more than $1 million worth of music memorabilia.
Officials have pushed the fact the Rocksino will be an entertainment attraction and more than gambling.
“Wow. Absolutely amazing,” Northfield Mayor Jesse Nehez said of the project. “You would not expect something of this size, this magnitude to come to Northfield village.”
Amy Hollar, the local representative for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, said the horsemen are looking forward to the opening.
The industry has argued for years that owners, drivers and trainers have been leaving Ohio for other states where race purses are bigger. That’s expected to change with revenue from the racino.
“It’s our turn to shine,” she said. “It’s our turn to prosper. It’s our turn to make change for the better.”
The Hard Rock Rocksino is expected to be the third of seven racinos opening in the state.
It also will be the third major gambling venue to open in Northeast Ohio, behind the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland and the ThistleDown Racino in North Randall. The Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course is under construction near Youngstown and is expected to open next year.
In other gambling news Thursday, ThistleDown announced it is opening a comedy club for a six-week trial run starting Sept. 26.
“Northeast Ohioans have embraced every facet of ThistleDown Racino, from live thoroughbred horse racing to video lottery terminals and live bands, proving that they want more entertainment options close to home,” racino General Manager Rick Skinner said in a prepared statement. “With the addition of The Comedy Zone, we aim to offer residents throughout the region one more fun way to relax.”
The Comedy Zone will launch with Shaun Jones and Paul Strickland. It will offer five shows a week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.