The people mingled and gathered, the lights flashed on, the band took the stage.
It was go time at Club XL.
Harrisburg’s newest entertainment venue opened last month to a crowded house, which is saying something given the sheer size of the place.
Let’s just say that, at Club XL, nothing is small.
Big space, big patio, big stage, big bars, huge screens.
That’s the grand vision of owner Phil Dobson, who opened the 18,500-square-foot club and music venue in an old, 1940s-era warehouse near S. Cameron and Hanna streets in Harrisburg.
“Everything is big, hence the XL,” Dobson said.
The club is the latest piece of Dobson’s redevelopment puzzle for this once-industrial and later forsaken area. Across one street, he opened Savannah’s on Hanna in 2009 and, across another street, River City Blues Club and Dart Room in 2014.
Dobson has owned the Club XL building for about eight years, buying it without a solid plan, but with the thought that he wanted to control the small, several-block area just off I-83, gradually transforming it into a nightlife destination.
Now those plans are firm, and they are of the extra-large variety.
Walking in, a reception area leads to an enormous dance floor with one of the largest stages in Harrisburg, the ceiling outfitted with an industrial lighting system.
“I went all out with the lighting and the sound to give a true nightclub experience,” he said, adding that he’s gone as far as to install Co2 cannons. “When you’re here, it’s all sensory appeal. This brings it to a higher level.”
A 24-tap bar winds around the entire back and leads to a long room on the side, which features a concession area for food orders, with tables. Six giant screens grace the walls, capped off by a 200-inch behemoth. Upstairs, there’s a VIP area, with bottle service available, and, outside, a large bar and patio built around a 200-year-old sycamore tree.
Dobson said that he was inspired by Las Vegas clubs and wanted to bring that type of big-city nightlife to Harrisburg. To that end, he features big dance parties on Friday nights, but it won’t all be DJs.
Dobson also is booking live music for touring bands that need a mid-sized venue that can hold about 1,200 people. The alt-rock lineup of Puddle of Mudd, Saving Abel and Tantric came to town for the debut concert last month. Local bands also will be featured, and Smooth Like Clyde and Honeypump played for Club XL’s soft opening the night before.
This month, the venue will feature performances by Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, among other bands. It also will host several tribute bands, including In Gratitude (Earth, Wind & Fire), Back in Black (AC/DC) and Bark at the Moon (Ozzy Osbourne).
Club XL also will host sports, comedy and other events that can use a large open space, a stage, lights, giant screens and other amenities, Dobson said.
“When people come here, I want them to be wowed,” he said. “I want to give them so many options that it’ll be an experience.”
Club XL is located at 801 S. 10th St., Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-409-8975, email ClubXL@comcast.net or visit www.xlhbg.com.