An Xciting evening

Parx Casino unveils all-new Xcite Center with the help of legendary rock band Chicago

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

On stage: Rock band Chicago was the first artist to grace the stage of the all-new Xcite Center at Parx Casino. The group performed at a sold-out venue. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

The nail-biting Eagles versus Falcons game wasn’t the only exciting thing going down at Parx Casino on Jan. 13. While most guests that evening had their eyes glued to the dozens of televisions sprinkled throughout the casino, more than 1,500 people were present for something else — the official opening of the all-new Xcite Center, featuring a kickoff performance by the Grammy Award-winning rock band, Chicago.

The festivities began with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the front doors of the venue, which is located inside the casino directly next to Xlounge. Much to the excitement of some early arrivers, CEO Tony Ricci was joined by the band members of Chicago to chop the bright red ribbon in two.

“Parx Casino is thrilled to open a spectacular new live music venue with state-of-the-art sound and technology that will attract America’s biggest names in music and comedy,” Ricci said. “We set out to build the best entertainment venue of this size in the area.”

It’s official: The members of Chicago joined Parx Casino CEO Tony Ricci (center) for a pre-show ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Xcite Center. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

After the brief ceremony, Chicago fans began to trickle into the Xcite Center, the first audience to set foot in the space. The venue, which is 30,000 square-feet, features more than 1,500 seats, crystal chandeliers, massive video screens and a spacious stage that comfortably held all 10 members of Chicago.

The band hit the stage at 8 p.m. to the screams and cheers of its lucky diehard fans who managed to snag tickets to the sold-out show. Chicago opened with “Dialogue (Part I & II),” “Questions 67 & 68” and “Call On Me,” and didn’t stop jamming the entire night. The crowd belted out lyrics to classics like “You’re the Inspiration,” “Saturday in the Park” and finally the encore song “25 or 6 to 4.”

Throughout the evening, attendees were able to bring drinks purchased at the nextdoor Xlounge back to their seats as well as enjoy a clear view from anywhere in the venue. When designing the Xcite Center, the goal was to make the space as comfortable as possible for guests and artists alike.

Backstage, touring artists can take advantage of a green room, crew lounge, photo-op area for meet-and-greets, laundry facilities, bathrooms, five dressing rooms, including two for VIP stars, a large loading dock and outdoor picnic area.

The Xcite Center, which took one year to develop, is part of a recent $50 million expansion to Parx Casino. Other new amenities include two eateries — The Liberty Bell Gastropub and Lombardi’s pizza — and an updated space for Parx Poker.

Though the new carpet smell has hardly worn off, it’s already estimated that almost 100 events will take place this year at the Xcite Center. The space will be used for a multitude of purposes, including banquets, casino events, boxing, MMA and festivals. But first and foremost, it will host top-name musical and comedy entertainment.

Parx recently announced its award-winning lineup for the winter and spring seasons, which includes the following acts: Wayne Brady, Friday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m.; Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Dwight Yoakam, Thursday, Feb. 8, at 8 p.m.; Third Eye Blind, Saturday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m.; The Commodores, Saturday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m.; Lyle Lovett & Shawn Colvin, Thursday, March 1, at 8 p.m.; and Rascal Flatts, Saturday, March 3, at 8 p.m. Also slated to grace the Xcite Center stage is country legend Reba McEntire, who will perform not one, but two nights on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28. Both shows will begin at 8 p.m. Additional artists will be announced throughout the year.

Parx Casino is located at 2999 Street Road in Bensalem. For tickets and more information, visit parxcasino.com or call 888–588–7279. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com