The Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park will go head to head with the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland and ThistleDown Racino for gambling customers.

But, closer to home in the Akron area, the new Rocksino also presents competition for the Akron Civic Theatre and the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall for entertainment patrons.

The Rocksino, which opened in mid-December, is trying to distinguish itself from the other nearby gambling options with its entertainment offerings, which include an 1,800-seat concert venue, comedy club and Hard Rock Cafe.

The leaders of the Akron Civic Theatre and E.J. Thomas Hall say they are closely watching the new, flashy competition 20 miles to the north, which has had several acts booked by Live Nation, including Joan Jett, Night Ranger and Huey Lewis and the News. Howard Parr, who heads up the Civic, even went to a show to check out the new venue first-hand.

“When I first heard of the room that size, I was concerned,” he said. “I thought it would be bigger than it was. At the Joan Jett concert, I saw the room and saw what they are doing with it. Some will be successful in a casino environment and may not be as successful in a standard theater. The products may not necessarily cross over.”

Parr said the Rocksino features a large ballroom that can be set up differently depending on the customer using it, so it could have seats and a stage on one end for a concert, a boxing ring in the center with seats around it, or tables all around for a banquet.

“It’s a cool room,” Parr said. “It’s not a theater.”

Parr pointed to Il Divo, a quartet of acclaimed singers that will perform at the Civic on May 31, as an example of an act that is better suited to a traditional theater than to a casino.

Still, Parr said, the new venue is competition for other concert venues similar in size in both Akron and Cleveland. The Civic has 2,600 seats, while E.J. Thomas has about 3,000 seats. He said the Civic’s event bookings from Live Nation are down at the moment, though the theater’s overall number of shows was up in 2013 compared to 2012.

“The building is competition for product and there is a limited amount of product,” Parr said. “If someone plays there and doesn’t play us, it means we lose revenue. It’s the same as the Playhouse [Square] instead of us.”

Dan Dahl, who is in charge of E.J. Thomas, said his venue could end up losing a few concerts to the Rocksino, but he isn’t too worried because E.J. hosts so many different types of shows, such as symphony concerts, a speaker series and university events.

“We do so much more for the community,” he said. “They do rock ’n’ roll and jazz. That’s good stuff. It’s one piece of what we do.”

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at