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Rockin' hard place

Lee Swanson is betting Fargo-Moorhead is ready to rock. The owner of Playmakers just spent more than $1 million on a makeover of the large Fargo entertainment complex. The project included creating Fargo's own House of Rock, a 7,000-square-foot s...

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Lee Swanson is betting Fargo-Moorhead is ready to rock.

The owner of Playmakers just spent more than $1 million on a makeover of the large Fargo entertainment complex.

The project included creating Fargo's own House of Rock, a 7,000-square-foot show hall within Playmakers featuring dazzling lights and pounding sound.

It's the biggest investment at 2525 9th Ave. S. since 1990, when the one-time construction equipment storage facility was transformed into a sprawling sports-themed bar and restaurant.

Swanson bought Playmakers in 1999. He recently added Bottle Barn, an off-sale liquor outlet, and Renelli's Pizza, a restaurant.

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He also hired Kevin Weaver, an advertising business veteran, as director of marketing for Playmakers and for the Avalon Events Center, which Swanson owns in downtown Fargo.

"We realized this barn was old and had to get a facelift," Weaver said.

Today Playmakers the business is really five parts under 40,000 square feet of space: Bottle Barn, Renelli's Pizza, Playmakers Sports Bar & Casino, Playmaker's Pavilion and, of course, the new House of Rock.

Renelli's Pizza serves pizza, burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, East Coast-style subs and appetizers. Diners, including children with adults, can eat in the restaurant area or in Playmakers or the House of Rock.

Delivery is available until 4 a.m., to accommodate the college crowd. The House of Rock occupies the southwest corner of the Playmakers building.

Credit goes to Schultz Torgerson Architects Ltd. and Denise Drake Interior Design for the look of the House of Rock.

"We wanted to be retro, and have a '50s Las Vegas-red room type of look," said Denise Drake. To that end, red and lime hues are mixed with black.

Chairs are an eclectic mix of four styles. Each chair is covered with multiple fabrics.

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The House of Rock will host local, regional and national acts Fridays through Sundays. Mondays the House of Rock is closed, although Playmakers is open. Tuesday is karaoke in the House of Rock; Wednesday is college, techno-, hip-hop dance; and Thursday is "martini glam" radio dance hit night.

The Little River Band was among the first national acts to play the House of Rock.

Kerry Fernholz, general manager of the House of Rock, said the showroom has seating for about 220 and a capacity of about 500. A large black laminate dance floor is directly below the stage.

Cover fees range anywhere from $3 for local acts to $35 for national acts, Fernholz said. He said the House of Rock pays anything from $600 to $20,000 a night for entertainment, depending on the act.

"The venue is very nice," Terry Finley, tour manager for the Little River Band, said in a note to House of Rock promoter Jade Nielsen. "As far as production goes, my guys said that everything was great and would definitely want to do that venue again."

Playmakers Pavilion, with space for 1,000, is booked for larger events. That room is also booked by outside promoters.

Nielsen, owner of Jade Presents of Fargo, has been in the promotion business for 14 years.

"I think this is easily the best club in the region," he said of House of Rock. "It rivals anything that size in the Minneapolis area as well. They did everything right."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560

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