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The final countdown

Grand opening of Seminole Hard Rock’s enormous expansion set for Oct. 24

HOLLYWOOD — It’s down to the wire as thousands of details are checked and double checked for what will be a new day in the history of the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock International.

Many milestones have already been reached in Tampa where the Hard Rock has completed a $700 million expansion. Eyes are now turning toward Hollywood and an Oct. 24 grand opening of the 450-foot tall guitar-shaped hotel that has redefined the skyline in Broward County.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is going from 465 rooms to almost 1,300; from a few restaurants and bars to almost 40. It’s the same story with 13.5-acres of pool areas and a 42,000-square-foot Rock Spa & Salon.

The guitar-shaped hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood was lit up in pink Sept. 19. The grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 24. (Kevin Johnson)

New areas have already opened, including the food court, a redone Hard Rock Café and high-limit gaming area.

The new lobby is virtually completed – there are new front desk pods, new furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) has moved in, you can dine at a 24/7 restaurant and, as usual, get your caffeine fix at the Constant Grind coffee bar. The reimagined Council Oak restaurant is putting the final touches in place, too.

Most pool areas are also complete, except for some last minute accents to the 4.5-acre lagoon.

“Everything is moving along; some areas are right down to the wire,” Drew Schlesinger, Hard Rock Hollywood VP of operations, said.

Tribal members will get the first look at the $1.5 billion expansion and all the amenities on Oct. 13 – including 638 new hotel rooms in the guitar and another 168 in the adjacent Oasis Tower.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood President Bo Guidry (Photo Hard Rock)

Then it will be the general public’s turn Oct. 24 – the grand opening date for not only the new hotel but all areas of the property.

People have been booking the new hotel rooms in earnest since reservations began July 24, and ticket sales for the future lineup of shows at the new 7,000-person capacity Hard Rock Live entertainment venue have been robust. The inaugural concert will be Maroon 5 on Oct. 25.

The entire casino floor has essentially been rebuilt – and was done while keeping casino operations up and running.

The casino also has a new ceiling, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), carpet, marble paths, lighting and sound and additional Hard Rock memorabilia.

Team effort

It would be hard to choose from all the superlatives people have used to describe what’s coming or to list all the bells and whistles visitors can expect to see and experience.

Behind it all is a massive Hard Rock team led by Jim Allen, the chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming. Allen’s Hard Rock Hollywood team is led by its president, Bo Guidry.

“This project will redefine the South Florida hospitality market for decades to come,” Guidry said. “This property is iconic in every sense of the word. From the architectural masterpiece of the guitar hotel, to the unique lagoon and water features and the Bora Bora style resort experience.”

Guidry said the full spectrum of amenities will appeal to a wide variety of guests – those seeking fun in the sun and exciting nightlife and those looking for a relaxing retreat and “reconnection with their special someone.”

Hard Rock Live, seen here Sept. 24, will open with a concert by Maroon 5 on Oct. 25. (Photo Analicia Austin)

The nightlife options include a new 44,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor complex called Daer South Florida – a nightclub and poolside day club with rooftop features.

“The talents of our entire team have made it possible to bring this vision to reality and I am grateful for their hard work and outstanding efforts,” Guidry said. “This project is truly unique, there is nothing like it anywhere in the world. Our entire team realizes that they are part of something very, very special.”

Guidry and other top level executives have been immersed in a string of job fairs over several months that have attracted thousands of applicants to Hard Rock Hollywood from across Florida.

Schlesinger said the human resources and marketing departments have done “one of the most amazing jobs” he’s ever seen with an opening of this size and scope.

Human resources has hired 1,800 new employees so far – with about 200 more positions to be filled.

The department has conducted mass employee orientations of 200 people at a time. New employees are not only fitted for new uniforms but learn about the Seminole Tribe and all of the Hard Rock’s operations and expectations.

“Every department has participated. It’s an amazing scheduling feat,” Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger oversees all operations other than gaming – hotels, spa, pool operations, public spaces, facilities, engineering, banquets and housekeeping – that’s just a taste.

Foodies rejoice

The expanded property will feature 19 food options and 20 bars.

Those projects are led by Hard Rock Hollywood’s food and beverage VP, Justin Wyborn, who is always excited to discuss the options people will soon experience.

There are four fine dining restaurants in the lineup, including an “elevated” buffet (which Hard Rock Hollywood has never had) and several casual and contemporary eateries.

Fine dining includes the redone Council Oak. It’s in a new location and overlooks the VIP pool. The restaurant has an open kitchen concept, butcher shop, 3,000-bottle wine room and floor to ceiling windows.

Those who enjoy Italian food will be happy, too. An Italian restaurant – something Wyborn said was always needed – will “celebrate the Italian American experience.”

“Everything is made from scratch – the pastas, pizzas, sauces … it’s a family, high-energy restaurant,” he said.

A contemporary American grill is coming as well. Wyborn said it’s no less than “one of the most beautiful restaurants you’ve ever seen.”

The American grill will be located on the second floor of the casino in the middle of the lagoon area. It’s been designed with floor to ceiling windows and 360-degree views.

The seating layout allows for a more intimate setting or patrons can sit in a large U-shaped bar area that surrounds the open kitchen.

And finally, Japanese restaurant Kuro is still the mainstay it’s always been and has had its menu slightly upgraded.

Wyborn said all four of the fine dining concepts are Hard Rock creations. In the future, there will be a third-party Korean restaurant concept located in the new 26,000-square-foot retail promenade.

On the beverage front, bar and lounge options go from 11 to 20, and Hard Rock Live will have 36 bar wells up and running for concert goers.

Wyborn has been at Hard Rock Hollywood for about six years. He was previously with the Nobu Restaurant Group for 16 years, opening eight restaurants around the globe.

“I’m so incredibly blessed to work with the Tribe and the Hard Rock and be a part of this development and groundbreaking that is so special,” Wyborn said. “To be a part of the creating with all the SVPs and VPs, it’s been one of the most impressive times of my life.”

Wyborn has done restaurant projects at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City and at a Hard Rock venture underway now in Sacramento, California.

“When you’ve got a leader that wants you to get involved and be creative and add value to the organization – that’s what we all take away. [Jim Allen is] a visionary and fantastic with finding a really good team that works together,” Wyborn said.

Marketing minds

As one might imagine, marketing is another Herculean task in a department that has been in the midst of a juggling act for both the Tampa and Hollywood properties.

David Koloski, Hard Rock Hollywood VP of marketing, came into the position about a year ago after 13 years of experience in the Las Vegas gaming industry.

“What’s been created here is pretty unparalleled,” Koloski said.

The big challenge for Koloski and his staff (a good challenge, he said) is how to market all the pieces of the property – sometimes in bite sized chunks and sometimes collectively.

He put a plan in place that expanded the marketing outreach not just to Florida residents, but a regional, national and international audience.

For Koloski there are multiple audiences, multiple segments to consider from the guest whose primary purpose is gaming, to the tourist group who are interested in the full resort experience – hotel, spa and retail.

Then there are those who are local and want to, perhaps, use the spa for a day and have a nice dinner.

Part of Koloski’s marketing plan also encompasses an expanded 120,000-square-foot meeting and convention space and 38,000-square-foot exhibition hall.

The Hard Rock Hollywood’s proximity to the Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports are good leverage points for that market, he said.

“We can’t wait to get this place open and running. Everyone is busy and running around and wants to deliver the experience. Ideas are flying everywhere,” Koloski said. “It’s a great place to be, to work, and to market one of the nicest new resorts to come online in a very long time.”

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