“There are plenty of people who don’t enjoy gambling, and we have to make sure we continue to let them know that we are a major entertainment venue with many different ways to spend your entertainment dollar,” said Rick Richards, who became general manager at Rivers Casino in June of 2021. “We will continue to offer a variety of entertainment for a variety of different people. You don’t have to gamble.”
Professional boxing was the occasion last weekend that brought out a large crowd to the Rivers Casino Event Center, and this weekend country music star Aaron Lewis will be performing sold-out shows there on Friday and Saturday.
“We had a really good turnout for the boxing last week, and Aaron Lewis is pretty hot right now,” said Richards. “We fit in a little over 900 in that venue, and I think the boxing audience really enjoyed it. As for Aaron Lewis, he’s been sold out for quite a while now, so things are going very well.”
Rivers Casino opened in February of 2017, and with the COVID-19 pandemic looking like it might be in the rearview mirror, Richards is hopeful the facility, located on the southern banks of the Mohawk River, will enjoy its best summer ever.
“We’re in our fifth year now and COVID definitely made things a lot tougher,” he said. “But we’re going to have a lot going on this summer, and with the weather permitting we’re going to do a lot outside. If the weather is bad we can move back indoors.”
Those summer outdoor events include two nights of Harbor Jam concerts, the first scheduled for July 30 and the second for Aug. 27. There will also be a Wine Walk on Aug. 6 and the Electric City Food Truck Fest on Aug. 20.
Along with those special events, Sunset Sips is returning for its second summer at the Landing Hotel every Friday and Saturday evening. Guests can enjoy live music, drinks and charcuterie boards by Grazing518. The series will kick off in May and among the local musicians scheduled to perform are Ryan Clark, Gianna Robustiano, 2096, Stef Schecter and Jacklands.
Also debuting in May will be Latin Nights, a series of Thursday night performances at Van Slyck’s by Alex Torres and his Latin Orchestra. Also offering music for the series will be Orquesta Sensacional and a number of local DJ’s. The show begins at 8 p.m. each Thursday night.
Live music is also currently ongoing at Van Slyck’s (Fridays and Saturdays) and at Duke’s Chophouse (also Fridays and Saturdays.). Van Slyck’s is also currently offering Country Nights, beginning each Saturday in April from 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
While the schedule isn’t complete yet, the Event Center will host at least four major happenings over the rest of the year, including Cage Wars 52 on April 29. The night will offer a series of mixed martial artists bouts between local and regional fighters with a Cage Wars 52 champion to be crowned.
Also slated for the Event Center are performances by musicians Melissa Etheridge (June 17) and En Vogue (Sept. 3) as well as comedian Frank Caliendo (Sept. 24).
Etheridge, an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and activist, has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards and has won twice, for “Ain’t It Heavy” (1993) and “Come to My Window” (1995). She also earned an Oscar for her song, “I Need to Wake Up” for the documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.
En Vogue is an American R&B female group formed in Oakland, California in 1989. They have been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, and in 2015 Billboard Magazine ranked them as the ninth most successful girl group of all time.
Caliendo is a Chicago-born comic best known for doing impressions of former NFL coach and TV commentator John Madden, as well as his work as a football analyst for Fox NFL Sunday.
Richards said the Event Center will most likely add to its schedule soon.
“Our events attract different demographics, and that’s why we want to offer multiple events so we can attract as many different people as we can,” said Richards. “The Harbor Jams were real popular before COVID, and our Sunset Sips and our wine tasting events are growing and people want to be a part of them. There’s a lot going on and there’s something for everybody.”
Richards, a Las Vegas native, grew up in the gaming industry. Both his father and grandfather worked in the business.
“I’m third generation and I’ve worked all over the U.S. and outside the country,” he said. “I’ve got 41 years of experience and I’ve learned to listen to what the guests say and what they want. And I don’t mind the cold. As long as I’m not treading through two feet of snow I love this area. There’s a lot to do around here, so I’m really enjoying getting to know the whole region.”