Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe opens to large crowd
STATELINE, Nev. — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe celebrated its grand opening with a mass of people Wednesday night as crowds eagerly awaited a taste of Tahoe's newest source for lodging and entertainment. Guests watched as Jon and David Park, members of the family that own the property, shattered an ice-sculpted guitar with sledgehammers and said a few words to kickoff the event. "This is going to be great for our community, great for our families, great for everybody here in the South Shore," Jon Park said. "Welcome, from our family. David and I are extremely excited for everyone to come out to what I think is a once in a 50-year event in this area — the grand opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Lake Tahoe." But even before the flood of people funneled through the resort's front doors, the renovated building was rampant with activity as staff prepared for opening night. Carts of ice were speedily delivered to the property's many dining locations, while employees arrived in droves and changed into costume. The smells of construction still lingered in the air, and crews continued to apply some additional touches in the late afternoon. About $60 million has been poured into renovating the South Shore property — formerly the Horizon Casino Resort — but work isn't quite done, according to Don Marrandino, senior vice president of operations for Warner Hospitality. For instance, improvements to places like the pool area and fitness center could take a bit longer before they're fully open. However, the main portion of the building, including the 25,000-square-foot casino and four eateries, looked polished and ready for customers around 4 p.m. Wednesday. The casino, set up in the shape of a large rectangle, features 500 slot and video poker machines, 24 table games and an 82-seat race and sports book — managed by William Hill — with several feet of wall lined with high-definition TVs. The eateries, on the other, line the edges of the casino floor. Fire Break Kitchen & Bar offers outside dining complete with patio heaters and gas fire pits. The view overlooks Highway 50, as well as the property's 25-foot high, 2,150-pound guitar sculpture. The sculpture can turn 360-degrees so guests can take photos with any surrounding backdrop, and lights are located inside and below the piece to enhance the visuals at nighttime, said Terrence Martin, creator of the giant guitar. "My intention was to create an iconic sculpture for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe that would both reflect the history and feel of Lake Tahoe, while at the same time, providing an unmistakable icon for the property," Martin said in a statement. Back in the building, Park Prime, the Oyster Bar and the Center Bar are all located next to each other on the west side of the casino floor. Park Prime offers steak, seafood and other hearty options, as well as a full bar and live music. Hardwood floors, wood and brick walls and Edison light bulbs accent some of the décor. The restaurant is adjacent to the 18-seat Oyster Bar, a 24-hour eatery offering gumbos, pan roasts, jambalaya and more. The Center Bar, located yards away, is also open 24 hours. It sits in an area bathed in blue light and features several LED TVs. It is one of two bars in the hotel and casino — not including those inside the restaurants. The second bar is the North Bar, located next to the sports book on the opposite side of the room. Finally, on the north side of the casino area, the 2,000-square-foot music and entertainment venue, Vinyl, takes up the corner space. It neighbors the coffee and snack shop called Fuel. At each location and throughout the building, the Hard Rock logo and brand is featured prevalently. There's also no shortage of rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Guitars and clothing perched behind glass-covered cases share associations with the likes of Buddy Holly, the Sex Pistols, James Brown, Velvet Revolver, Sammy Hagar, Lenny Kravitz and more. Nods to Elvis are prominently displayed throughout the building as well, where Marrandino said the King of Rock 'n' Roll played 106 times. There is also an 1,813-square-foot suite named after the King. In the end, the property's transformation has taken about 700 construction workers to bring it near completion. Hotel rooms became available to the general public today. "I've done this quite a few times," Marrandino said, "and I've never seen employees as excited as I saw yesterday. They were jumping up and down and really ready to go out there and do what we want to do the most, and that's customer service and really revitalize this area."