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MILES, Wash. – Clint Black was the opening headline act, and a week later Ronnie Milsap headlined at the Spokane Tribe’s brand-new amphitheater adjoining Two Rivers Casino. That’s a strong pair to draw, and indicative of plans for this new venue. River casino.

The amphitheater came about very quickly. Tribal Councilman Matt Wynne explained it was an idea that had bounced around for four or five years but not much had happened till recently. “It happened pretty quickly. We had roughly five weeks to put it together and we got it done. It was awesome. We pulled it off with a lot of really good employees and others.”

Attendance for the Clint Black concert was in the 3,000 – 3,500 range, according to Jamie SiJohn, who works in public relations for the tribe. The number dropped a bit for the Ronnie Milsap concert but those numbers will likely increase as word spreads about the new facility. Space is available for holding much larger crowds, but at this point they’re advertising that it will hold about 7,000 people. “In a perfect world, it would hold up to 12,000,” SiJohn laughed, “but we have room to grow and move as we need to.”

Immediate plans call for more beautification even prior to the next concert, Blue Oyster Cult, scheduled for Aug. 22. The grounds are still pretty basic and more sod will be laid right away. It’s hoped the irrigation situation can be improved to get more water for the new grass. The amphitheater sits where pow wows have been held in the past and, combined with the excavation needed in constructing the stage, will require additional sod and water.

The amphitheater is situated between Two Rivers Casino and the shoreline of Roosevelt Lake. Tree-clad hills provide a backdrop behind the lake. Jeff Kuhns general manager for the Two Rivers property, including both casino and amphitheater, recalled comments Clint Black made during the opening performance. “Clint Black said, ‘Man, I wish I could bring this backdrop with me wherever I go. There’s not many places you play where there’s a beautiful lake in the background.’ He also commented on the moon coming over the hill as he was performing and he was really impressed with the area.”

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Kuhn also praised the acoustics. “It’s hard to set up acoustics in an outdoor venue. We got lucky on that one,” he laughed. “We just put it up and it sounded awesome. The sound companies were really impressed with how good the stage acoustics are.”

The amphitheater is set up as a self-sustaining project. Money that comes in from each concert will remain in the project for beautification and expansion if it’s needed. It’s too early to really assess what impact it will have on the casino, but Kuhn has seen some early positive indications. “There’s definitely a rush [in the casino] during the day of the concert. It goes down a little bit when gates open to the concert, but when the concert’s done we get a rush afterward. We also allow customers to go in and out to make it fun for everybody. We may have an opening act that might not be certain customer’s cup of tea, so they can go for half an hour, come back to the casino, then go back for the main act.”

SiJohn and Mike Remphfer work together in the promotions area. Scheduling Clint Black and Ronnie Milsap for the first two performances indicates their success. As Wynne commented, “Yeah, big names. I was really impressed with that, the work Jamie and Mike have done, and Jeff and all our marketing people.”

Wynn explained the two casinos operated by the Spokane Tribe had just finished getting new compact gaming machines, and that was a reason for pushing the amphitheater forward. “We wanted to offer more amenities to our customers and this was one of the best ideas that came up.” And, as SiJohn added, “We have the amenities of houseboat rentals and RV camping. That really helps us with a full, complete package.”

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