NORTHFIELD: Ohio’s newest racino is selling more than gambling.
Sure, the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, which opens to the public next Wednesday, will offer plenty of slots-like video lottery terminals — 2,242 to be exact.
But it’s the other amenities — the Hard Rock Cafe, the 1,800-seat concert venue, the 320-seat comedy club, Hard Rock gift shop filled with collectibles and about $1 million in music memorabilia on display — that sets the venue apart from its competition.
“We will deliver experiences that make people walk out of here feeling like rock stars, and that’s our intent,” Rocksino President Jon Lucas said Tuesday during a media tour of the facility. “We spent $268 million to provide a facility that we think is an entertainment destination.”
The 200,000-square-foot venue, located along state Route 8 next to the Northfield Park harness track, is awash with color and light inside.
There are the rotating background colors on the ceiling, going from blue to green to red. There’s the red carpeting, with blue, green and yellow splashes. There are the giant video screens on each side of the Center Bar playing music videos. And there are LED crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Not to mention the bright glow of the VLTs.
“We hope when the guest walks in we get a ‘wow,’ ” Lucas said.
The Rocksino is new construction, with a 3,000-space parking lot wrapping the building. Parking is free. The main entrance, where valet service is offered, has radiant heat on the five lanes of traffic and sidewalks.
The facility itself is housed on a single floor, and visitors can see from one end to the other. It’s a contrast to the established Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland and ThistleDown Racino in North Randall, which both involved renovation projects within existing buildings.
The Rocksino also boasts a plethora of memorabilia all around: Buddy Guy’s overalls, Eminem’s track suit, Paul Stanley’s guitar, Nancy Sinatra’s boots and Eddie Van Halen’s motorcycle.
There’s little left to do in advance of opening night from an appearance standpoint. Lucas noted that training is ongoing, and the giant Hard Rock guitar has yet to be affixed onto the outside of the building.
Workers also must finish hooking up machines in outdoor smoking areas, which feature heat lamps for those cold winter days.
The Rocksino is playing up its Ohio connections. It’s the only gambling venue in the state with a majority owner, Brock Milstein, a local property developer and owner of the harness track, who lives in the state. It also partnered with Cleveland Browns legend Bernie Kosar, who lent his name to Kosar’s Wood-Fired Grill, a steakhouse with menus and bar stools fashioned out of football leather.
In addition to Kosar’s, there are three other eateries, including a 288-seat buffet.
A long-term, master plan includes a parking garage and hotel, but the focus now is opening the Rocksino, Lucas said.
The facility will employ about 750. Lucas estimated the Rocksino will generate about $100 million for the state, including income and other taxes.
Kevin Lattner, 61, of Bay Village, who attended Northfield Park on Tuesday and has been inside the Rocksino, praised the facility.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s all about color. When you walk in there, if you have real sensitive ears and noises bother you, you are not going to like it. But if you’re half human, the place is going to be amazing.
“Let’s put it this way: It’s a 250 percent move in the right direction.”
Lattner also said he is happy the Rocksino will help the race track.
Northfield police Chief Mark Wentz said the village is preparing for a big turnout on opening day. The facility, located along the Summit-Cuyahoga counties border, can hold up to 5,883 people, and the chief said he wouldn’t be surprised if it hit capacity.
“The biggest issue for us is going to be the volume of traffic that we’re not used to seeing,” Wentz said. “We’ll be out there for traffic control and have a presence inside.”
Traffic lights have been added along Route 8 to help with the expected flow of cars.
The village added two part-time officers and purchased two sport utility vehicles, but has held off hiring others until officials get a better sense of what’s needed from a law enforcement perspective.
“We have concerns from a police end because we don’t know what to expect yet,” the chief said. “This is the first Rocksino that they are actually opening up as far as Hard Rock goes.
“It’s hard to believe a world-class facility like this is in our own backyard,” he added.
A controlled demonstration is planned Monday for the Ohio Lottery Commission, which oversees VLTs at the tracks. The money made at that event will be given to charity organizations, including the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
The Rocksino will be the third major gambling venue to open in Northeast Ohio, following the Horseshoe Casino and ThistleDown Racino.
A fourth is expected to join the crowded field next year, with the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course under construction near Youngstown.
The Rocksino will be the fourth of Ohio’s planned seven racinos to open. Miami Valley Gaming in Lebanon opens Thursday, joining ThistleDown and Scioto Downs in Columbus.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.