By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The concerts are going to get a lot bigger at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, which has doubled the size of its indoor Terrace Showroom.
The venue gets a full-fledged unveiling Saturday night with a sold-out concert by musician Bret Michaels of Poison and “Celebrity Apprentice” fame.
Hoosier Park put nine months and $4 million into its Finish Line project that includes the new concert setting, a renovation of the first level of the grandstand and clubhouse, e-terminals for race wagering and a family-friendly first-level “fun zone.”
But it is the indoor concert remodeling that will set a new atmosphere for music fans, Hoosier Park representatives said.
As many patrons will recall, Hoosier Park previously held indoor concerts on the south end of the racing side of the facility. Crews would convert the Homestretch Steakhouse into concert seating for 600 ticketholders.
The remodeled all-indoor venue will seat 1,200 and offers seating that runs from the Homestretch restaurant across most of the racing grandstand.
Many of the new amenities are based on patrons’ comments.
“Over the past five years, Hoosier Park guests have been giving us suggestions for a new indoor venue,” Jahnae Erpenbach, vice president and general manager of gaming at Hoosier Park, said during a tour of the facility. "All the lessons we learned when we first turned this into a showroom were valuable."
Among the new components:
— Fourteen “suites” have been added, each accommodating four to six people with a couch, two cushioned chairs and two ottomans. The suites are just below the Pegasus bar.
— A curtain that blocks passers-by on the track side so the Pegasus bar can be part of the concert setting.
— Seats are more central to the stage and range from the suites to a dining-and-concert setting to general admission.
— The racing entrance now has the Club Centaur and programs desk more accessible. Shelby’s Gifts has also nearly doubled in size.
— Due to changes in Indiana’s smoking law, the Terrace, showroom and grandstand seating are no longer available to patrons under the age of 18; there are designated family entrances.
— Wagering carrels have been updated on the north end of the grandstand and equipped with touch-screen e-terminals.
— The Prime Harvest Buffet has been renovated with a garden theme.
By doubling the seating capacity, Hoosier Park should draw in larger acts, Erpenbach noted. Due to the previous size of the venue, musicians often performed two shows to make it worth their while. Now, performers who prefer doing one show may be lured to the site, she said.
However, some supporting columns still remain. Those blocking views of the stage are to be designated to ticket buyers when they buy online or at Shelby’s Gifts.
So far, the new stage has been used three times, including a trial run concert by The Wright Brothers, a fashion show and a chamber breakfast.
More plans are also in the works, Erpenbach said.
— A bar that features Indiana beers and wines.
— Since Hoosier Park no longer offers thoroughbred racing, the paddock will be converted into offices and a top floor of the grandstand will be used for special events.
— Renovations to the back side of the track including a lounge and recreation area for drivers and additional amenities for groomers and trainers.