When the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City this summer, it will significantly expand the entertainment options in the Jersey Shore resort town.
The Hard Rock is set to open on June 28. Headliners for the first weekend have not yet been set, but the schedule gets busy quickly with lots of country acts: Kellie Pickler on July 6, Florida Georgia Line on July 13 and 14, Rascal Flatts on July 26, The Voice's Blake Shelton on Aug. 18, and Toby Keith on Aug. 26. Comedian Amy Schumer & Friends is the big Labor Day weekend attraction on Sept. 1.
Along with the country, the lineup is made up almost exclusively of heritage rock acts. Other name brands on the way: outspoken Trump supporter and bow-hunting rocker Ted Nugent on July 12; Pat Benatar with Neil Geraldo and Rick Springfield on July 26; Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and the Cult on Aug. 1; Jersey soul-rocker Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on Aug. 4; and Counting Crows with York, Pa. '90s alterna-rockers Live on Aug. 23.
After summer's come and gone, Steely Dan (with Donald Fagan but not the late Walter Becker) will play Oct. 13, and Kid Rock on Oct. 19 and 20.
The new casino hotel's signature venue will still be called the Mark G. Etess Arena, named after the Trump executive who died in a helicopter crash in October 1989. In February, Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said the venue will hold as many as 7,000 people.
The Hard Rock will also have a second, as yet unnamed, 2,000-capacity venue. Allen, speaking at a news conference in New York that was live-streamed in Atlantic City, said there would be 100 acts scheduled at the Etess Arena per year, and 200 more annually at various venues, including a Howie Mandel-branded comedy club, around the property.
Plans for the Hard Rock's grand opening are still coming together, Paul Juiliano, vice president of hotel operations, said in Atlantic City on Wednesday. "We're still trying to finalize opening weekend," he said.
The Etess Arena's capacity is almost three times the size of the Event Center at the Borgata Hotel & Casino, and a few thousand short of Boardwalk Hall, the barrel-ceiling building that's bringing in Kevin Hart (May 26) and Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper (Aug. 4).
When it was part of the Taj, the Etess Arena regularly pulled in an impressive array of acts ranging from country bills — featuring the likes of Toby Keith, George Strait, and Willie Nelson — to pop stars such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Sade, and Shakira. Elton John was the first act to play, in October 1990.
Since the Taj was shuttered as part of a spate of casino closings at the Jersey Shore between 2014 and 2016, the entertainment offerings have shrunk considerably in Atlantic City. Philadelphia-area casino venues like the SugarHouse — where Buddy Guy is playing on Friday and the B-52s perform on June 1 — and the brand-new Xcite Center at the Parx Casino in Bensalem, which has Reba McEntire on April 27 and 28, have siphoned off shows that used to play Atlantic City.
The lineup remains strong at the Borgata Event Center, where Halsey plays July 14, Britney Spears July 19 to 21, and Kings of Leon on Aug. 5. The Borgata's smaller Music Box has R&B singer Ledisi on June 2 and Saturday Night Live comic Michael Che on June 29.
But elsewhere in town, bookings are more erratic. So far, two A.C. beach concerts have been announced for this summer: country crooner Sam Hunt on July 1 and electronic pop duo Chainsmokers on July 29. And the Tropicana has a solid slate of acts, with Tedeschi Trucks Band on June 2, Stephen Stills and Judy Collins on June 23, Yes on July 14, and Alice Cooper Sept. 8.
Tickets for 60 shows will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at HardRockHotelAtlanticCity.com. More information is available on that site. The presale code is HRHC65.
Here's the complete schedule of acts announced so far by the Hard Rock:
July 1 to Sept. 16: Motor City Live: A Motown Tribute
July 5: Third Eye Blind
July 6: Country Fridays featuring Kellie Pickler
July 12: Ted Nugent
July 13 and 14: Florida Georgia Line
July 20: Country Fridays featuring A Thousand Horses
July 21: Chris Young
July 26: Pat Benatar, Neil Geraldo, and Rick Springfield
July 26: Rascal Flatts
July 27 and 28: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Aug. 1: Stone Temple Pilots and Bush and the Cult
Aug. 4: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
Aug. 9: George Thorogood
Aug. 11: Million Dollar Quartet
Aug. 18: Blake Shelton
Aug. 23: Counting Crows with LIVE
Aug. 26: Toby Keith and Trace Adkins
Sept. 1: Amy Schumer and Friends
Sept. 8: Fab Faux
Sept. 22: Cole Swindell
Oct. 13: Steely Dan
Oct. 19 and 20: Kid Rock
Oct. 30 to Nov. 4: Rock of Ages