Cherokee Casino Resort in Midst of Hard Rock Facelift
By DANIEL C. CAMERON
ALMOST FINISHED: Once complete, The Hard Rock Casino Tulsa will be a newly expanded, premier entertainment and destination resort featuring a 19-story tower and a total of more than 350 guest rooms; a 110,000 square foot casino; a relaxing indoor/outdoor pool; 30,000 square feet of convention space; a 2,500 seat multi-purpose theater for concerts and sporting events; several new restaurants; and cocktail lounges featuring live entertainment.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
Enthusiastic crowds have packed Cherokee Casino Resort’s latest addition. The new 30,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment space houses more than 800 new electronic games and a bar unlike any other in greater Tulsa. However, this is just the first phase of a $155 million expansion project, which will ultimately include 400,000 square feet of hotel, convention and entertainment venues all under the moniker of Hard Rock Casino and Hotel.
“We’ve been able to create several unique areas, or zones, throughout the property, each with its own distinct style and atmosphere,” says David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, which operates Cherokee Casinos.
The casino’s new gaming floor includes a smoke-free area, an upscale high-limit room with its own private bar and lounge, 100 proprietary games available only at Cherokee Casino, and the new gaming floor’s focal point, the sleekly furnished Center Bar.
Center Bar features a bar with a frozen bar top and serving taps and is more than 80 feet long. Stewart comments, “This is meant to be an open nightclub atmosphere.” He says they have had huge success with the club. Fridays are packed to the hilt. Cherokee’s Center Bar is fashioned after Hard Rock’s center bar with intent to meld the now with the future of the enterprise.
Upon completion, the hotel and casino complex will include a Hard Rock store, an additional 19-story luxury hotel tower, increased rentable convention space bringing the total to more than 30,000 square feet, Toby Keith’s” I Love This Bar & Grill” and a 2,500-seat multi-purpose theater.
Included in the expansion is a top floor steak house, an 18th floor, 300-person capacity convention room and a convention hall with accommodations for 1,000 people.
Once complete, the hotel tower will put the total amount of rooms at or near 460. This includes a five or six room set of Hard Rock suites exclusively for VIP’s.
The famous Twisters entertainment center will be changing its name as well. It, as is the entire operation, will be under the Hard Rock brand. With the name change, Twisters is gaining space to hold about 300 people, who will be able to enjoy shows with a new dance floor. McGill’s restaurant will be moving to the top of the tower as an upscale steakhouse and dining room. The space McGill’s currently occupies will become a Mexican restaurant.
“By increasing the entertainment and convention space, we are able to increase our draw from around the region and attract out-of-state tourist dollars. We’ll have something completely unique to this area that no one else can duplicate,” adds Stewart. The Hard Rock will be only one of seven Hard Rock Casino and Hotels worldwide.
When asked about guest response to the changes, Stewart says, “The regulars are very excited.” There is a lot of action around Cherokee right now and there is a buzz throughout the resort. Frames are going up where famous musician’s memorabilia will hang. One can really begin to see the brilliance behind the excitement.
Cherokee Casino will do a soft opening in June and on July 1st, the operation will hold a grand opening and celebrate the official name change to Hard Rock Casino and Hotel.
It is important to make clear that Cherokee Casino is not being purchased by Hard Rock. “There are a lot of misconceptions that we are being bought out in some way. When in fact, we’ve merely entered into a partnership to carry the Hard Rock name, décor and merchandise. It’s a win-win for both parties. Hard Rock gets to expand into the Midwest for the first time, and we get valuable brand equity by carrying such an established name in the gaming and hospitality industry” says Amanda Clinton, Communications Manager for Cherokee Nation Business. Cherokee Nation Enterprises will continue to manage and own the operation 100 percent. The Hard Rock Casino and Hotel will become the branding. Cherokee Nation Enterprises currently employs 3,500 people in northeastern Oklahoma.
Cherokee Nation Enterprises is the retail, gaming, entertainment, hospitality and cultural tourism entity of the Cherokee Nation. CNE operates casinos in Tulsa, Claremore, Roland, West Siloam Springs, Fort Gibson, Sallisaw and Tahlequah, as well as the Cherokee Travel Plaza, two Cherokee Outpost convenience stores, six retail tobacco shops, four gift shops, two golf courses and three hotels. The company is currently undergoing a $150 million expansion at its flagship resort property in Tulsa, which will now be branded as a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and a $125 million expansion at Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs.