The Hawaiian Village Hotel once promised "Hawaii in Tampa" complete with a Tiki lounge and an "Aloha Convention Hall."
The hotel itself is now a Days Inn. The adjoining courtyard retains the name, the palm trees, cabanas and pool with waterfall. Show up on Labor Day expecting a tropical musical vibe — Martin Denny, anyone? — and you'll be in for a rude, and loud, awakening.
Instead, the courtyard will thunder with the sounds of Buckcherry, Papa Roach, P.O.D. and more, part of the Rock Allegiance Tour. The venue, located behind Stadium Green Iguana on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, already has played host to shows by DJ Paul Oakenfold, reggae scion Ziggy Marley and old-school hip-hop artist Rob Base.
Blood and guts metal act Gwar is scheduled for Nov. 23, and there's more to come, according to promoter Harry Tiyler of Fat Harry Productions, who brought Marley and Maxi Priest to the venue.
"There's gonna be a lot of shock and awe about some of the shows that are gonna be there," Tiyler says, without naming names. "There are gonna be some head-turning shows similar to this Rock Allegiance show."
Aside from the concert stage at the rear of the courtyard, the renovations of the 64,000 square foot property are subtle enough to retain the tropical feel. It's still recognizable from 1970s postcards.
"We saw an opportunity for a concert venue at an excellent location that everybody could get to, from Orlando, St. Pete and Clearwater, from all areas," says Green Iguana general manager Rich Mackizer.
Mackizer and Voncile Anderson, the nightclub chain's director of marketing, credit owners Alan Fosco and Rick Calderoni with the concept.
Calderoni "felt this would fill a void in Tampa for a quaint venue where you could have concerts," Anderson says.
Hawaiian Village may be quaint in the sense that it's unusual, but it's anything but old-fashioned.
Motel rooms surrounding the courtyard have been converted to VIP suites large enough to accommodate a dozen guests. High-tech lighting and sound power both the main stage and a smaller one near the pool. Three outdoor bars keep the drinks flowing, and customers also can order food from the restaurant at the bar.
Guests who don't feel like driving home after the show can book a room next door.
"It's more or less a joint venture between us and the hotel," Mackizer says, adding that Days Inn offers event attendees discounted room rates.
Noise hasn't been an issue, Anderson says, because "there's not a lot of residential around us. We've got businesses in front, behind and all around us."
"We employed sound technicians from the inception through the design process and we actually have them on site at events to make sure we're not exceeding sound limits," Mackizer says.
As far as safety concerns, such as too-rowdy rock crowds, Mackizer says the venue is ready.
"Do we anticipate issues with a rock show? No more than at any other show," Mackizer says. "We're fully staffed security-wise with off-duty personnel from the Tampa Police Department as well as fire and rescue personnel.
"We have multiple walk-throughs with heads of security for each of the bands, the tour promoters and the artist management to make sure everything is handled."
"That's nothing that proper security and preventive measures can't handle," Tiyler says. He cites Panhandle mega-clubs/concert venues such as Panama City's Spinnaker as evidence that rock, alcohol and water are "not necessarily a recipe for disaster."
Still, some things are just common sense. Besides its outrageous concerts, Gwar is known for launching fake gore onto its audience and surrounding areas.
"For Gwar, we're gonna cover the pool," Tiyler says.