Indian Crossing Casino brings national acts
By Angie Landsverk
Brian Wagner and Dion Block are bringing the Indian Crossing Casino back to its roots.
National acts are playing there again.
The BoDeans, LeAnn Rimes and Summerland with Everclear are among those booked for this season.
“Basically, every Friday and Saturday are packed with shows now,” said Wagner.
That is just one of the changes made since he and his wife Elysia bought the Casino last year.
“We had a great first year,” he said.
In fact, the first year went so well that Wagner decided he wanted to focus more on the Indian Crossing Casino (ICC).
Wagner sold the partnership interests he had in two Oshkosh businesses, so he could turn his attention to ICC.
Those businesses were Peabody’s Ale House and Bar 430, both located in downtown Oshkosh.
Block has a background in the food and beverage industry and was the general manager of Peabody’s and then Bar 430.
Last year, Wagner brought him on as ICC’s general manager.
The beginning of this year, Block became a partner (co-owner) of the business.
They are not strangers to the area.
Block is originally from Fremont, while Wagner is from Wild Rose.
Wagner is the vice president of operations for a software development company based out of California.
That is his full-time job.
“This is a hobby,” he said in regard to ICC.
Wagner lives in Oshkosh and explained how he became interested in buying the business.
About six years ago, he bought a place on the Chain O’ Lakes.
“Like others, I would go by and see the Casino closed,” Wagner said. “I have a hard time not being curious.”
The Realtor he worked with to buy a house and condos on the Chain works with someone who knows Bill and Maria Belke.
They had owned the Casino for decades.
After getting their contact information, Wagner sent them an email.
He told the Belkes he was originally from Wild Rose and a partner in two Oshkosh businesses that were doing really well.
Wagner asked them if they would be interested in selling the Casino.
That was in the fall of 2015.
Bill called Wagner and offered to meet with him.
Wagner met with them in Florida in late 2015.
“That kind of spurred Bill and Maria to open it up for the summer of 2016,” he said. “They made a little more revenue, but realized it was more work.”
In late 2016, Wagner and Block met with them.
They completed negotiations and closed the deal in early January.
“We had a great summer,” Wagner said. “Last season was May 20 through the first weekend of October and a couple weddings after that.”
The improvements made last year include the creation of a beer garden area with picnic tables, renovation of the bar area and addition of a commercial kitchen.
The previous kitchen had been removed in the 1980s.
Wagner also paid for garage doors to put in on the back porch prior to the 2016 season.
“The other major change was we added back the nationals (bands), he said.
They work with an Appleton booking agency.
“It was hard to get the BoDeans last year, because there hadn’t been national bands here in a long time,” Wagner said.
After the band played, members of it were posting pictures and saying they wanted to play there again.
“Once they come here, they kind of fall in love with it,” Wagner said.
This year, Rimes was interested in including small towns in her acoustic tour.
Everclear contacted ICC’s booking agency and said it was coming through the area, Wagner said.
The Summerland tour at ICC will be its only show in the state, he said.
The Casino is also adding Party on the Porch this season.
It will take place from 3-6 p.m. Sundays, beginning in early June and running through Labor Day weekend.
Among the featured musicians will be Pat McCurdy and Chris Kroeze.
Another focus at ICC is food.
Last year, they established a base for their menu, Block said.
They doubled the menu this year.
“Now we’re looking at a whole different world,” he said. “We added brunch. Brunch is food aimed at a certain time of day.”
Their brunch menu includes chicken and waffles, omelets and French toast.
In Oshkosh, they were known for using the farm market, and they want to find local sources here as well.
Block said they do not like to use anything that comes out of a can.
As a courtesy to the area restaurants, they stayed away from what others are already doing when they built the ICC’s menu.
“One thing we focused on in Oshkosh was to have a good relationship with the other bars and restaurants,” Wagner said. “We want to be a good neighbor.”
Their menu also includes specialty cocktails.
“It’s not pretentious, and it’s not intimidating,” Block said. “Our focus is on making it approachable.”
Built in 1924, the Casino opened in 1925.
“It’s always been called the Casino,” Wagner said. In Native American heritage, Casino at that time meant ‘gathering place.’”
However, the name confuses some people.
“We get calls saying, ‘How many slots do you have? Do you have Blackjack?’” Block said.
From a historic and business standpoint, it would be hard to change the name, Wagner said.
Their logo uses the abbreviation “ICC,” and they are trying to incorporate that more.
ICC is currently open 3-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to close Friday and 9 a.m. to close Saturday and Sunday.
The third week in June, the hours will move to an 11 a.m opening Monday through Thursday.
Wagner spends weekends on the Chain. He and his wife have a daughter.
Block and his wife Nina live in Appleton with their two sons.
“It’s great,” Wagner said of the business. “It’s fun to be around.”