A Backstage Pass to Top Entertainment Venues in Indian Country

According to a 2018 Nielsen Music report, 52 percent of the U.S. population attends a live music event each year. For many Tribal enterprises with entertainment venues in their business mix, that’s music to their ears. 

In 2017 alone, revenue from concert ticket sales totaled $8 billion dollars, says Statista, a leader in market and consumer data. To grab a slice of that lucrative pie, more and more Tribes have leveraged their entertainment options into multi-million-dollar outdoor amphitheaters and indoor arenas to beckon fun-seekers from all over the world looking for top-notch entertainment.

Native Business Magazine takes an inside look at some of these notable entertainment venues across Indian Country. Whether you’re sitting in a state-of-the-art 10,000-seat indoor arena or sprawled out on the lawn of an outdoor amphitheater under a blanket of stars, concert venues have become big business for many Tribes that have learned to capitalize on what singer/songwriter Billy Joel once said, “No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” 


Make it Grand!

The Grand Theater at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant

Tribal Affiliation: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Location: Durant, Oklahoma

Size: A three-level, 100,000-square-foot indoor, multipurpose facility with a 3,000-seat capacity. Accommodates concerts, conventions, trade shows, banquets, receptions and corporate events. 

Date Opened: June 2015

Capital Investment: Undisclosed

Target Demographics: All ages and entertainment preferences, booking performers from Chris Stapleton and Journey to Randy Rogers and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” 

Revenue Generation: Year-round

Average ticket sales: Varies, depending on the entertainment act

What top acts have you attracted? Aerosmith, Reba McEntire, KISS, Luke Bryan, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and Kevin Hart

Who plans the events and handles marketing? All performers and events are handled internally.

Fun Fact: Named 2019 ACM Casino of the Year Small Capacity

Trace Adkins performs at the Rolling Hills Casino Ampitheater (Photo by Johnny Inthong)

Rolling in New Profits 

The Amphitheater at Rolling Hills Casino and Resort

Tribal Affiliation: Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians

Location: Corning, California

Size: An outdoor, 8,000-capacity seating near the stage and on the grass, with views of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta

Date Opened: June 9, 2019

Capital Investment: Undisclosed

Plans for Expansion: The plan for the first year is to have everything temporary and portable to determine the best placement for amenities, such as concessions and restrooms. Future plans include permanent staging with dressing rooms, seats, concessions and restrooms.

Target Demographics: The 50-plus-year-old gamer because they grew up listening to all genres of music. The goal is to determine the right types of acts that appeal to gamers, but also provide variety to attract entertainment-seeking non-gamers.

Revenue Generation: It is a seasonal venue that runs from May through September.

Average ticket sales: Around 4,000 tickets per event

What top acts have you attracted? The first three shows featured Dwight Yoakam and Trace Adkins. Scheduled later in the year are Latin favorite Pepe Aguilar and some classic rock bands.

Advice for attracting top acts: Build your reputation by being attentive and professional. Artists appreciate attention to detail on technical and hospitality riders, as well as an organized staff to execute the events.

Who plans the events and handles marketing? The marketing director and general manager. An outside agency helps with booking and contracts.

Advertising and cross-promotion opportunities with other businesses: Currently working with local businesses, including a local RV dealership that provides RVs to be used as green rooms backstage in exchange for banner placement.

Fun Fact: Used 140,000 square feet of sod — almost the size of 2.5 football fields

Why did you build an amphitheater at your casino resort? “Before we built the Amphitheater, you had to drive hours to see a quality event and take your money out of the region. Our new Amphitheater provides neighbors with quality entertainment and complements our existing enterprises close to home, while also attracting customers outside our region. We know it will have a positive economic impact for the community at large.” —Andrew “Dru” Alejandre, Chairman of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians

Mohegan Sun Arena (Photo by Khoi Ton, Mohegan Sun)

A Prominent Place in the Sun

 Mohegan Sun Arena

Tribal Affiliation: Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut

Location: Inside Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut

Size: Indoor 10,000-seat arena

Date Opened: 2001 

Capital Investment: $65 million

Target Demographics: Fans of all genres of music: Country, Hip-Hop, Rock, Jazz, Heavy Metal, Pop and more. Also, sports fans, as the Mohegan Sun Arena is home to two professional sports teams owned by the Mohegan Tribe: the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, and the New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League (NLL).

Revenue Generation: Year-round

Average ticket sales: In the range of $35 to $90

What top acts have you attracted? Bon Jovi, Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Jay-Z, Shawn Mendes, Logic, The Eagles, Shawn Mendes, Jonas Brothers and Luke Combs

Advice for attracting top acts: Today’s artists want to be associated with a venue that has a world-class reputation like the Mohegan Sun Arena brand, says a Tribal spokesperson. “It’s all about relationships. Our team and crew are the reason why so many national tours want to start here, rehearse here and even end their tours here. When you put people first, great things happen.” Mohegan Sun Arena also has the advantage of being inside a world-class destination like Mohegan Sun, with amenities such as fine dining, luxury hotels and spas, meeting and convention space and nightlife.

Who plans the events and handles marketing? Tom Cantone, senior vice president of Sports & Entertainment for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE), Tom Cantone. He oversees all operations and booking, and maintains a business relationship with Live Nation, the largest concert producer in the U.S.

Advertising and cross-promotion opportunities with other businesses: The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and more.

Fun Fact: Michael Jordan played at Mohegan Sun Arena during his return to the NBA with the Washington Wizards. The sold-out exhibition game took place on October 26, 2001. 

Why did you build an amphitheater at your casino resort? “Tourism was certainly a driving force in launching a major entertainment venue like this, as was the goal to become the premier concert destination in the Northeast. After nearly 20 years, it has become one of the busiest and most successful Arenas in the world, surpassing 13 million total guests to the tune of 120+ events per year.” — Tom Cantone, senior vice president of Sports & Entertainment for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE)

Casino Del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater in Tucson, Arizona (Photo Courtesy Casino Del Sol)

The Sky is the Limit 

Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater (AVA Amphitheater) 

Tribal Affiliation: Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Location: Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona

Size: Outdoor seating for approximately 5,000 people in covered seating and on the lawn

Date Opened: October 14, 2001

Capital Investment: Undisclosed

Plans for Expansion: Improvements and upgrades are regularly made to the amphitheater. Most recently, additional concession stands were added, and walls that separated the beer garden area from the seating area were removed, opening the gardens for an improved beverage experience. 

Target Demographics: A mix of local residents and out-of-town guests who stay at Casino Del Sol, of all ages.

Revenue Generation: Seasonally, April through November

What top acts have you attracted? Van Halen, Daddy Yankee, Toby Keith, Gwen Stefani, Alejandro Fernandez, Luis Miguel, The Scorpions, Pitbull, Kiss and Snoop Dogg

Who plans the events and handles marketing? A department within Casino Del Sol 

Fun Fact: AVA was built to offer perfect sight lines from every angle.

Why did you build an amphitheater at your casino resort? “At Casino Del Sol, we are passionate about embracing our role as the premier entertainment destination in Southern Arizona. We built AVA Amphitheater to allow us to host popular, world-renowned acts, providing top-notch experiences to our guests for each and every show.” —Robert Valencia, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, New Mexico (Courtesy Inn of the Mountain Gods)

Plenty of Room at the Inn

Inn of the Mountain Gods 

Tribal Affiliation: Mescalero Apache Tribe

Location: Mescalero, New Mexico

Size: 40,000 square feet of entertainment space. Includes an indoor venue that accommodates 1,800 to 2,000 people (includes standing); the expansive outdoor lawn overlooking Lake Mescalero offers space for 3,000 to 5,000 people (includes standing).

Date Opened: March 2005

Capital Investment: The entire Inn of the Mountain Gods property was approximately $200 million.

Target Demographics: Vary, based on time of year and the seasons. They draw attendees from Dallas/Ft. Worth to the east, Tucson and Phoenix (and even Los Angeles) to the west, and El Paso, Texas, and into Mexico to the south.

Revenue Generation: Year-round

Average ticket sales: Usually sell out all shows; sold 5,000 tickets to Snoop Dogg

What top acts have you attracted? Jeff Foxworthy, Snoop Dogg, Lee Brice, and Chase Adkins with Chevel Shepherd. 

Advice for attracting top acts: Do careful planning and marketing to ensure a solid fan base.

Who plans the events and handles marketing? They plan and implement everything internally, but use outside resources for booking talent.

Fun Fact: The 4th of July fireworks show is one of the top 15 in the nation and largest in New Mexico, drawing people from all over the world. This year, over 25,000 people attended.

The new Hard Rock Live is a centerpiece of the $1.5 billion expansion at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, which opened on October, 24, 2019.

Getting Ready to Rock! 

Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood

Tribal Affiliation: Seminole Tribe of Florida

Location: Hollywood, Florida

Size: An indoor, 225,000-square-foot concert venue that can accommodate up to 7,000 guests.  The state-of-the-art facility has technical capabilities to host nationally televised awards shows, sporting events and more.

Date Opened: Opened on October 25, 2019 with the Maroon 5 concert 

Capital Investment: $125 million

Plans for Expansion: Hard Rock Live is the central highlight of the  $1.5 billion expansion project at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. Combined with the expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is investing over $2.2 billion in upgrades at both properties concurrently.

Target Demographics: A wide variety of entertainment seekers, from classic rock ‘n roll and country music fans to comedy aficionados and theater buffs.   

Revenue Generation: Year-round

Average ticket sales: Varies per show; no standard pricing

What top acts have you attracted? Maroon 5, Andrea Bocelli and more

Advice for attracting top acts: “A-List performers have an expectation of excellence – in production capabilities, technical advancements and outstanding communication. We have many artists that cite us as one of their favorite venues and we see many of them come back multiple times over the course of their careers to perform here.  The artists also enjoy staying at the property because of the Hard Rock vibe, so once they’re off the stage they get to relax a little and have some fun.”

Who plans the events and handles marketing?  A dedicated Special Events department handles everything from A to Z. An internal team of technicians oversees every aspect of production.

Fun Fact: For opening night, guests were able to watch the show from the comfort of a living room-type setting, complete with couches and cocktail service.


Entertainment Value: AIANTA Weighs In

The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) is the leading advocate for cultural tourism in Indian Country. Many Tribal organizations look to AIANTA for help in developing and growing their Tribe’s tourism offerings to “honor traditions and values.” 

According to AIANTA, the entertainment side of tourism is becoming a booming business. “We are seeing more Native American Tribes derive economic benefits and marketing exposure from their amphitheaters and entertainment venues,” says Sherry L. Rupert, AIANTA’s executive director. “Across the country, Native-owned amphitheaters continue to be highly rated and top the lists for favorite venue locations.”

Rupert adds that often these venues not only feature A-list performers, such as Snoop Dogg and Trace Adkins, but they also provide a space to showcase Native performers and culture, including Native dancers, pow wows and Indian Rodeo. 

In addition to Native Business’ roundup, AIANTA offered this list of noteworthy entertainment venues in Indian Country:


BlueWater Amphitheatre 

Tribal Affiliation: Colorado River Indian Tribes

Location: Parker, Arizona 

Type of venue: Outdoor amphitheater



The Events Center at Harrah’s Southern California

Tribal Affiliation: Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians

Location: Funner, California

Type of venue: 2,200-seat indoor theater


Starlight Theater

Tribal Affiliation: Pala Band of Mission Indians

Location: Pala Casino Spa and Resort in Pala

Type of venue: Indoor and outdoor venues. A 2,000-seat indoor events center and a 2,400-seat outdoor amphitheater called the Starlight Theater 


Coming soon: Hockey in the California desert!

Tribal Affiliation: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Location: Palm Springs, California

Type of venue: An indoor, 10,000-seat sports and entertainment arena 



Fox and Grand Theaters

Tribal Affiliation: Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation 

Location: Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut

Type of venues: Both indoors; 1,400 seats (Fox) and 4,000 seats (Grand)



Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza Events & Concerts

Tribal Affiliation: Moapa Band of Paiutes

Location: Moapa, Nevada 

Type of venue: Outdoor amphitheater



Sandia Resort and Casino Amphitheater

Tribal Affiliation: The Pueblo of Sandia

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Type of venue: Outdoor 4,000 seat amphitheater


The Isleta Showroom

Tribal Affiliation: Pueblo of Isleta

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Type of venue: Indoor, 2,216 seats



Seneca Niagara Events Center 

Tribal Affiliation: Seneca Nation of Indians

Location: Niagara Falls, New York

Type of venue: A 2,400-seat indoor center 


Seneca Allegany Events Center

Tribal Affiliation: Seneca Nation of Indians

Location: Salamanca, New York

Type of venue: A 2,400-seat indoor center 



White River Amphitheater

Tribal Affiliation: Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Location: On Muckleshoot Indian Reservation in Auburn, Washington

Type of venue: Outdoor, 16,000-seat capacity 

Deep Water Amphitheater at Mill Bay Casino

Tribal Affiliation: Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Location: Manson, Washington

Type of venue: Outdoor, 1,600-seat capacity 


Tulalip Amphitheater

Tribal Affiliation: Tulalip Tribes of Washington

Location: Tulalip, Washington

Size: Outdoor, 3,000-seat capacity