Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2018

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Hard Rock Hotel expansion hits another milestone

Resort moving ahead despite downturn in the economy

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Amanda Finnegan

Construction workers prepare to hoist an evergreen tree and American flag atop the South Tower at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Friday morning. The topping off was a milestone in the resort’s $750 million expansion project.

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino expansion project

The Hard Rock's 15-story tower will separate itself as the resort's all-suite tower, featuring 374 suites and eight Launch slideshow »

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino celebrated another step in its $750 million expansion project Friday when construction workers hoisted the highest piece of the structure atop the South Tower.

The new 15-story tower will separate itself as the resort's all-suite tower, featuring 374 suites and eight “spa villas.” Crowning the tower will be seven penthouse suites. The South Tower will open in late 2009 as the final component of the resort's expansion project.

The standard suites in the South Tower will be about 700 square feet, featuring Bose sound systems, iPod docks, two 42-inch plasma TVs (one of which is in the bathroom) and 310-thread count sheets.

“It’s very much a residential feel, which is kind of the way the hotel industry has gone,” Hard Rock vice president and general manager, Yale Rowe said. “It will have really high quality finishes, very high quality fabrics, comfortable couches that you’d find in your house and state-of-the art electronics.”

Rowe described the rooms as “modern but timeless,” which was a hard vibe to create, he said.

“We spent a lot of time and energy making sure it was what we wanted. We built the model room, then we tore it apart, built it again and tore it apart and built it again for a third time until we had it exactly the way we wanted it,” Rowe said.

Last month, Hard Rock announced plans to add an additional 75,000 square feet of meeting space, totaling 82,000 square feet of convention space. In late October, the resort topped off its 17-story, 479-suite North Tower. The tower is set to open in July 2009, a few months ahead of its previously scheduled fall opening. The two new towers will increase the Hard Rock’s guest room total from 650 to 1,525.

As part of the expansion project, The Joint will undergo a facelift and reopen in April with double the seating capacity and VIP suites. The Hard Rock will close its music venue this weekend with a pair of Motley Crue concerts.

“It’s going to be a great weekend. We’re going to have a great crowd here,” Rowe said. “We’re excited to close it with Motley Crue. They’ve been fans of the property for years.”

The Killers will open up the new Joint on April 17, along with one other major show that will be announced in a few days, Rowe said.

There has been uninterrupted construction at the Hard Rock since the expansion project began in 2007. Unlike other casinos that have canceled projects because of the down economy, Hard Rock hasn't canceled or delayed a project since the beginning of the expansion -- and will complete some phases two months ahead of schedule.

"I think we simply financed projects a little differently. We had all the money ahead of time,” Rowe said. “It’s no secret that the market has gotten softer. The price of materials has come down a bit so we are able to hit our budget and in some circumstances come in under our budget. And since the money was there ahead of time, we were able to cover all the costs.”

Rowe said completing projects ahead of schedule also helped cut costs.

Hotel occupancy suffered in Las Vegas over the past year, falling from about 87 percent to about 79 percent, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. With new properties and projects still popping up across the Valley and worsening economic conditions, many casino operators are hesitant. Rowe said like many, he's somewhat worried but is trying to remain optimistic.

“We’re confident but we’re not so arrogant to say we’re not going to be concerned about filling rooms,” Rowe said. “We’re going into it with our eyes wide open.”

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