HOLLYWOOD — Big name celebrities – Johnny Depp, Morgan Freedman, Khloé Kardashian, Joe Manganiello, Bella Thorne, Jeremy Piven and more – strutted along the red carpet in their finest fashions and flashed their brightest smiles.
But there was no doubt who the real stars were at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on Oct. 24 – the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the world’s first guitar-shaped hotel.
The instantly iconic Guitar Hotel officially opened after two years of Hollywood residents and commuters watching it rise a little bit higher each day to eventually soar 450-feet into the sky and forever change the Broward County skyline.
The completion of a $1.5 billion expansion not only establishes the integrated resort and casino as a flagship for the Tribe, but also as a destination unlike any other in Hard Rock’s worldwide portfolio.
Opening night visitors also had a chance to look around the $100 million Hard Rock Live performance space with a seating capacity of 7,000.
About 24-hours later, Maroon 5 became the first band to perform in the unlike-anything-in-Florida venue.
On Maroon 5’s heels will be Alicia Keyes, Billy Joel, Andrea Bocelli, Sting, George Lopez, Bret Michaels, Gladys Knight, Kevin James and more.
The new venue is expected to host 200 events a year, double the number of the previous Hard Rock Live.
Meanwhile, Hard Rock Hollywood’s casino expansion rivals any on the Las Vegas Strip or anywhere else, with nearly 200,000 square feet of gaming space.
Add in all the other amenities, like the 13.5-acre pool and lagoon with overwater cabanas, a luxury spa and fitness center of 42,000 square feet, the Daer nightclub and day club complex, more than two dozen dining, lounge and entertainment options, a collection of high-end retail stores and more than 150,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and one can understand why thousands were eager to book rooms and check it all out on grand opening night.
The Oct. 24 celebration began in earnest with a red carpet event at the Oculus, a unique feature through the Hard Rock’s main entrance from a new grand porte-cochere. The Oculus – designed by the same team responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas – has to be seen in person to fully appreciate its draw.
‘We came from the swamp’
An invited crowd of VIPs, media and celebrities joined Tribal leadership and Tribal members in the lagoon-pool area for a blowout private party and presentation in the shadow of the massive Guitar Hotel.
Carefully arranged on a stage near the base of the hotel were the traditional Hard Rock guitars, chairs for dignitaries and and a podium for speakers who would address the crowd that gathered across one of the pools.
From the top of the hotel, six fixed high-powered beams of light – mimicking guitar strings – projected thousands of feet into the night sky, and on this night, the beams literally pierced through the South Florida clouds.
“This is a momentous occasion that will last for a lifetime and then some if God will let us,” said Paul Buster before opening the festivities with a prayer and blessing.
“We Seminoles came from the swamp. We literally slept in the swamp, but now we have this guitar [where] we can lay our head once and awhile along with you,” Buster said.
The 100-acre site where the development sits has, at different times over the years, been a rodeo arena, mobile home park and place to sell arts and crafts.
“This land here, we used to hunt this land long ago. My grandfather built his first house across the street where the Council Oak stands at the old Classic Casino,” Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. said.
“Today we stand on this land with this prized possession. We were born here, we live here and we’ll die here. We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
Chairman Osceola thanked the 3,000 construction workers who toiled on the site for two years remaking Hard Rock Hollywood and building the Guitar Hotel.
He noted that another 3,000 permanent jobs were created in the process.
“We’ve invested a lot in the state of Florida. We welcome you to our home. We built this for you on our homeland. We hope you enjoy what we’ve done,” he said.
Chairman Osceola said the business venture means members of the Seminole Tribe can be provided for in education, health care and more.
“…To provide a better way of life not only for our people, but our employees,” he said.
One of the members of Tribal leadership who has been intimately involved with expansion efforts is Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola. He won the award for most energetic speaker of the night.
“I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more proud to be standing here tonight amongst you all,” Councilman Osceola said.
“I’ll never forget the night [former Hollywood Councilman] Max Osceola called me and said ‘Hey Chris we just bought the Hard Rock can you keep it a secret?’ I said ‘Yeah Max.’ And as soon as I hung up I leaned over to my friend Jeff and I said ‘Hey bro,’” Osceola said to laughter in the crowd.
“To watch the Tribe, the Hard Rock, grow to what it’s become today it’s just truly amazing. It was always Jim Allen steering the ship. If you’re ever in a foxhole, that’s the guy you want sitting next to you,” he said.
Hard Rock International Chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen took to the podium last. He made a point to thank the many different contractors, companies and Hard Rock employees who made the project a reality.
“We literally were here last night until 2 a.m. putting the final touches on the building, and that’s the kind of commitment of all of our employees who love to work for the Tribe,” Allen said.
“When it got tough, and believe me on a construction site it gets tough, they stepped up and got us to the finish line. It’s the date we said we would do it, October 24, we made it by the skin of our teeth,” he said.
While Hollywood’s Guitar Hotel will always be the first, it won’t be the last. Hard Rock has others in the works for Mexico City, Barcelona and Japan.
The Tribe – the first to enter the gaming industry after opening a high-stakes bingo hall in the 1970s – bought Hard Rock International for $965 million in 2006.
The company now does in excess of $6 billion in revenue across 75 countries, according to Allen.
Another feather in the cap for the Tribe will be next year’s Super Bowl, hosted at Hard Rock Stadium just 10 miles south of the Guitar Hotel.
The Tribe bought the naming rights for the stadium in 2016.