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May 17, 2017

Planned Parx entertainment venue should change local show biz equation

The combination of location, big-time headliners and free parking make the casino’s under-construction Xcite Center a likely success

That's Show Biz Parx Casino
Parx courtesy of Parx Casino /for PhillyVoice

The Parx casino expansion is estimated to create more than 200 new jobs in the Bucks County and Philadelphia regions, making the casino one of the largest employers in Bucks County with over 2,500 employees.

By far, the biggest news to come out of the recent announcement of the expansion project at Parx casino is the addition of a 1,500-capacity performance space.

Considering that somewhere between 500,000 and one million people live within a 30-minute-or-so drive of the sprawling gambling den on Street Road in Bensalem, Bucks County, this can be something of a game-changer. Never before have the residents of Lower Bucks County, Northeast Philly and parts of South Jersey had such quick and easy access to a headliner venue. That parking is free will only enhance the space’s virtually assured popularity.

Of course, it wouldn’t matter if millions could walk to Parx if there were no reason to go there, and the gaming hall has been in discussions with multiple promoters to book the venue.

courtesy of Parx Casino /for PhillyVoice

Renderings of the exterior the new Liberty Bell gastropub and interior of the new Lombardi's pizzeria at Parx casino.

So, who will be appearing at the venue that has been dubbed the Xcite Center? During a recent interview, Parx CEO Tony Ricci wasn’t ready to ID any specific headliners, but he was happy to prime the pump (to borrow a phrase not coined by Donald Trump). 

“We’re not going to go head-to-head with [the Wells-Fargo Center],” he said, “but if you think of Borgata, their Music Box is 1,000 seats and their Event Center is [between 2,500 and 3,500, based on configuration], so we’re looking at the kind of performer, that level of entertainment.”

Ricci did narrow down the field based on his gaming hall’s primary audience. 

“I would think, for the most part, we’re going to try to complement the casino demographics, so it’s going to be geared more towards the more mature audiences. But there could be [acts that] appeal to the millennials.” However, he added, do not expect big-name DJs or what Ricci called “teenybopper” acts to be part of the mix.

Ricci also floated the possibility that local celeb mimic Joe Conklin, who has hosted a long-running, popular Wednesday night comedy bill at the casino’s small 360 Lounge, could move to the new facility, which is scheduled to be completed in November and formally introduced with a New Year’s Eve blowout (likely for high-rollers only), and which can be scaled for programs of varying sizes.

“We’re talking with Conklin about maybe doing something in the [Xcite Center]. Joe can definitely do more in a larger venue,” he offered.

Regardless of who is presented in the space, audiences won’t be watching the shows from tiered seating. 

“We considered that,” said Ricci. 

“The problem is you lose flexibility when you do that. If we want to convert [the room] into a boxing or [Mixed Martial Arts] event, you need that flat floor.”

Still, the CEO is confident his soon-to-open facility will take the live-entertainment experience (or is that “Xperience?”) to new heights, locally speaking.

“If you’re going to do it,” he reasoned, “you might as well be the best.”

Chuck Darrow is a veteran entertainment columnist and critic. Listen to “That’s Show Biz with Chuck Darrow” 3 p.m. Tuesdays on WWDB-AM (860), 104.9 FM,, iTunes, iHeartRadio, and TuneInRadio.

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