Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is set to open June 28 with an ambitious plan to develop the city as a world-class entertainment destination, Hard Rock International Chairman & CEO Jim Allen told Travel Agent and other media at a three-city launch event in New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
While acknowledging the challenges the destination’s tourism sector has faced over the past few years, most recently with the 2014 bankruptcy filing of $2.4 billion mega-resort Revel, Allen maintained that, with the support of the Atlantic City community, Hard Rock could develop the city as a “true international destination.”
“We got so close five years ago,” Allen said. “With this, it became about the need to bring the city, county and state together. We like to say, ‘We have one last shot to do this.’”
Atlantic City’s tourism sector has been growing over the past three years, Allen noted, posting 22 percent growth last year. It also remains the second-biggest gaming market in the United States, although the new Hard Rock resort won’t be relying on gaming alone to draw travelers. Instead, Hard Rock’s status as a strong entertainment brand, along with financing from Hard Rock International, will allow the resort to slowly grow the Atlantic City tourism market.
“The Hard Rock brand is not a gaming brand,” said Allen. “I don’t think any other entertainment company has ever launched 60 acts at the same time,” he continued, referring to the 60 bands booked for the resort’s 7,000-seat arena that go on sale this Friday. In total, Hard Rock has booked 300 acts for the Atlantic City resort this year.
Financing, too, will play an important role in a destination that has faced challenges in that area before. Allen was careful to note that the Hard Rock parent company enjoys an investment-grade rating from S&P and Moody’s.
“We can weather any storm to let the business grow,” Allen said, noting that the company plans to slowly ramp up business over the course of three years after opening, rather than attempting to drive revenue growth right away.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will occupy the site of the former Trump Taj Mahal, which was purchased by investor Carl Ichan in 2014 before closing in October 2016 amid a labor dispute. Since Hard Rock purchased the property last year, it has poured over $500 million into a top-to-bottom renovation that completely gutted the guest rooms and most public areas. Only certain places, such as the Dynasty restaurant, retain a mostly original look as a nod to the property’s history.
“You won’t find any minarets, Taj signs, or magenta and purple colors,” Allen said.
In addition to the complete guestroom revamp, the project also installed a new seating configuration and sound system in the arena. Altogether, when it opens the resort will have 2,000 guest rooms, 20 bars and restaurants, a 7,000-seat arena and a smaller theater with a capacity of 1,500 people seated and 2,000 people standing. While gaming won’t be the property’s primary focus, it will still have a casino with more than 2,100 slot machines and 120 table games.
The opening entertainment lineup includes a variety of acts, such as Kid Rock, Steely Dan, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Third Eye Blind and one-week engagements of Rock of Ages and Kinky Boots, with more to come. Referring to Valli as a “legendary New Jersey entertainer,” Allen said, “we’re working on a few other ones,” although he did not name potential names. The resort has also entered into a partnership with Howie Mandel of America’s Got Talent to open a Howie Mandel Comedy Club at the resort, also opening June 28.
With a summer 2018 launch date, the Hard Rock Atlantic City will be opening at roughly the same time as the revamped Revel, which has since been rebranded as the Ocean Resort Casino after a purchase by AC Ocean Walk.
Ocean Resort Casino, which just signed an agreement with Hyatt to join the Unbound Collection of independent hotels, is also set to open this summer. It will have 1,399 guestrooms, a 138,000 square foot luxury casino, 160,000 square feet of indoor meeting and convention space with another 90,000 square feet of flexible outdoor special event space, five swimming pools, including a salt-water pool, a sun deck with cabanas, dining from restaurant groups Garces Group and LDV Hospitality, and entertainment experiences including day and night clubs, as well as a sports bar.
Ocean Resort Casino will also have a 32,000-square-foot onsite location of exhale, Hyatt’s newly acquired fitness and spa brand, with 32 treatment rooms, a mind body studio and retail boutique. The new spa will be the first exhale experience to open within a Hyatt-branded property.