BLOOMINGTON — The Castle Theatre's main competition in the Peoria market is about to become a full-fledged member of the Castle family.
The Limelight Eventplex, the 4-year-old music venue located on Peoria's north side, has been purchased by the ownership group behind Bloomington's successful downtown theater, now in its eighth year.
The Limelight's last concert is a New Year's Eve show Sunday night with the Way Down Wanderers.
When the 1,500-seat venue at 8102 N. University St. reopens under its new ownership in March, it will be under an equally new name: the Monarch Music Hall.
"It all came up a couple of months ago when we learned they were going to get out of the business," said Rory O'Connor, Castle co-owner.
"Our initial reaction was that we had been going head-to-head with the Limelight for four years as our main competitor, and that this might all get a little easier if we moved in instead of somebody else," he said.
"It seemed like there would be a lot of opportunity in Peoria ... it's a little bit bigger market and a place where a lot of things are going on downtown on the riverfront that we could get involved with."
In short, said O'Connor, "It seemed like a pure opportunity, and so we reached out."
According to Leon Edwards, vice president of Peoria's Inked Entertainment, which was involved with talent buying and marketing for the venue, the Limelight's three owners were ready to move on after four years.
"One moved to Colorado over the summer, and one is very much semi-retired. The other has about three other businesses that he was really putting his focus on this year," said Edwards.
"They'd taken the Limelight to the point they felt they could take it to, and they wanted to see somebody who could come in and keep it growing instead of starting over again from scratch."
According to O'Connor, the Castle crew's first major imprint, beyond the renaming, will be an upgrade to the existing sound system.
"We've got the technical staff to try to make it sound better, though they've done a great job over there with the room. Its capacity is listed at 1,500, but we'll likely do around 1,300 for comfort. That's still 500 seats larger than the Castle."
O'Connor said he expects that process to take most of January and February, with a grand opening not likely until April (an event involving Peoria public television station WTVP is on the books for March 10, but will not mark the official opening, he added).
The Monarch will be booked both via regular Castle channels and in a partnership with the Inked crew, best known for staging the country-leaning Tailgate N' Tallboys series and rock-favoring Bud Light Concert Series on the downtown Peoria riverfront.
Though the Castle team is not involved in either of those, O'Connor said they would be interested in future partnerships on downtown concert events.
"Each town has its strengths," he added. "Peoria has a rich history in rock, and I think there are a lot of rock fans there. Our strength at the Castle has been more in the indie rock area ... so I don't think any of that's going to change."
"Honestly, I'm very excited to have the Castle guys coming in," said Edwards.
"We have a very good relationship with them. They've definitely been bringing in a very mixed group of great acts to Castle over the past seven years. We want to continue where the Limelight left off to keep the momentum going, and Rory and his team have the means to be able to do that."