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Hard Rock plants roots in Virginia for first time

This rendering shows a view of the entrance of the future Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol in Bristol, Virginia. In the meantime, Hard Rock is opening a temporary casino at the site. (Courtesy Hard Rock.)

Hard Rock’s entry into the Virginia market in Bristol is set to materialize in 2022 as construction is now underway on a temporary casino in the city while plans for a permanent Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol take shape.

The temporary casino comes about a year after voters approved a referendum to allow casino gambling in the city of about 20,000 residents. Bristol, in southwest Virginia, is nicknamed the “birthplace of country music.” The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is located there – a musical connection that’s appealing to Hard Rock officials and country music fans. It is also the twin city of Bristol, Tennessee – just across the state line.

Jon Lucas, the chief operating officer of Hard Rock International, said in a statement that the temporary casino should open sometime in the second quarter of 2022. The permanent development is expected to open in the next year and a half to two years, he said. Both projects are the first for Hard Rock in Virginia.

The temporary casino – at a Women’sBelk department store in the former Bristol Mall – is expected to have 30,000 square feet of gaming space, including 900 slot machines and 20 table games. Plans include a new restaurant, sports bar and lounge, retail store and entertainment area. Hard Rock officials said the temporary casino would create 600 jobs.

The permanent site – a $400 million expansion of the entire former Bristol Mall site – will, of course, be much larger in scale with more than 2,700 slot machines and more than 100 table games – not to mention a 750 room hotel, seven restaurants and four bars. Once completed, Hard Rock Bristol will feature a 3,200-seat Hard Rock Live indoor entertainment venue with an outdoor option that can accommodate 20,000 people.

Country music memorabilia will be displayed throughout the complex, including pieces by legends Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Buck Owens and Hank Williams.

Once completed and in full operation, Hard Rock expects the development to attract more than four million visitors each year; create up to 2,000 jobs; and generate between $15 and $20 million in annual tax revenues for the city.

Hard Rock Bristol – the temporary casino and permanent site – is located at 500 Gate City Highway. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the parent entity of Hard Rock International. Its two most successful flagship properties are in Hollywood, Florida – where the world’s first Guitar Hotel opened in 2019 – and in Tampa.

More information is at hardrock.com.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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