When the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa started announcing major acts for their new concert venue, I assumed there were probably 5 or 6,000 seats. Maybe like a bigger Ruth Eckerd Hall or the Yuengling Center at USF. Not long after it opened, the pandemic hit which shut down concert tours worldwide.

It was a solo show last month from Motley Crue’s Vince Neil that got me to finally check the new place out. I was eagerly looking forward to The Stadium Tour with Poison, Def Leppard and Crue – but that tour kept getting pushed back due to COVID-19. I thought seeing Vince in a place with only 5,000 seats would be kind of neat too. I’d only seen Crue shows in big arenas.

When I walked in to the Hard Rock Event Center, my jaw dropped. This place was not the small arena I expected. It was really just a big ballroom. I’m told some shows have floor seating, but for the Vince Neil concert, it was standing room general admission on the floor with sets of riser seats along the back. There are no “nose bleed” seats. The up close concert experience you get with artists that normally play to 10-15,000 people is pretty unique. Acoustics were great. Plus it’s easy to find free parking and grab a bite to eat before or after the show. It really makes for a fun night out for a concert with a lot less stress.

If you haven’t had a chance to check the new venue out, that’s not a surprise. Only a handful of acts have had a chance to get on stage thanks to COVID. But now that we’re starting to turn the corner and concerts are coming back, I’d definitely check this list to see if there’s an act you want to see because you won’t see many of them playing venues this intimate.

November 9: ZZ Top (Sold Out)
November 11: Larry the Cable Guy
December 1: Trace Adkins
December 5: Tony Orlando’s Christmas Show
December 19: Ron White
January 7: .38 Special
January 16: Keith Sweat
February 17: TLC
February 19: George Thorogood
February 24: Foghat
February 27: The Whispers
March 10: Howie Mandel
March 20: Wayne Newton
April 10: Ben Folds
May 8: The Stylistics
September 18: Alicia Keys

Written & Photo by Geno Knight

Hear more about the Hard Rock Event Center (1:03) on the Experience Tampa Bay in 10 Minutes or Less podcast. Get ready for the busy travel season at Tampa International Airport (3:38) and hear about some healthy fast-food options (6:35).

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Produced by Micaela Figueroa