In the days and hours leading up to its first concert on Saturday night, it was “all hands on deck” for the Kansas Star Casino.
That’s how Megan Strader, the casino’s public relations manager, described the atmosphere as she and the rest of the staff prepared for rock band Daughtry’s performance Saturday night in the casino’s 6,000-seat arena.
“We’d rather be overstaffed than understaffed,” Strader said.
Kansas Star enlisted a group of volunteers from the United Way of the Plains to help staff the concessions stands. Five percent of the food and beverage sales from Saturday’s concert will go to the United Way.
About 10 minutes before the arena’s doors opened to ticketholders, volunteer Chuck Schroeder unpacked boxes of candy next to a spinning rack of pretzels.
Paul Grunden, a security guard, tore apart sheets of orange bracelets at a table a few feet from the doors through which the crowd would soon funnel.
Terry Jenkins, the director of corporate events at Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, Kansas Star’s parent company, said he usually attends a new casino’s first few events.
“This is the most crowded I’ve ever seen the casino,” Strader said as she glanced at the floor of twinkling, beeping slot machines.
Inside the arena, Sharon and Ronnie Papay of Derby stood with Betty and Ronnie Waltz, friends visiting from Garden City.
Ronnie Waltz said they were more interested in the new arena than the band.
Sharon Papay said she and her husband, Ronnie, have been waiting for the casino to open while officials debated whether it would be built in the first place.
A few rows from the stage sat a family of five self-described Daughtry fans who had traveled from Oklahoma for the concert. They’ve been tracking frontman Chris Daughtry’s career since his days as a contestant on “American Idol” in 2006. Daughtry formed a band and landed a record deal after his elimination from the show, and the group has released three top-10 albums since.
The band took the stage at Kansas Star with heart-thumping drums and vibrating guitar chords. Hundreds of smartphone screens illuminated the crowd, which Strader estimated at about 4,000.
Each of the 2,000 folding chairs on the arena floor was filled, although nearly all the concertgoers with floor seats were standing. Between songs, the crowd was vocal, whistling and shouting, “We love you, Daughtry!”
The atmosphere in the less-populated stadium seats was more subdued, but the acoustics were satisfactory. Although the guitars and drums echoed a bit, the lyrics were fairly clear. At one point, Daughtry asked the crowd, “Are you ready for a singalong?” The response was enthusiastic, although the crowd seemed to have a difficult time keeping up with Daughtry.
The Kansas Star casino will host country music artist Tim McGraw on July 7. Tickets are available on the casino’s website for $99 and $77. The rock band Journey will take the arena stage on Aug. 24.