Officials top out new Hard Rock structure

BY TIM LANDES
Special Correspondent
09/07/2018 04:45 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Bill John Baker on Sept. 5 signs the steel beam that will top out a 65,000-square-foot, two-story addition expansion at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The new facility will replace the sprung structure that had been in operation since 2002. TIM LANDES/SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials, as well as other dignitaries gather on Sept. 5 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for a topping-out ceremony of a new facility that will feature country-themed live entertainment. TIM LANDES/SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Workers on Sept. 5 prepare to bolt up a steel beam that will top out an expansion at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The beam is adorned with the Cherokee Nation and United States flags as well as a small cedar tree. TIM LANDES/SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
CATOOSA – The clanking of steel and other construction sounds carried through the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa parking lot on Sept. 5 as Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials celebrated an expansion topping out at the tribe’s premier gaming operation.

The new 65,000-square-foot, two-story addition replaces the sprung structure that had been in operation since 2002. It was a small, confined area where guests enjoyed live country music.

While it’s out with the old structure, Principal Chief Bill John Baker touted a new feature that he said would make regulars happy.

“That used to be where a bunch of elders used to game and also make their regular place to socialize. They always told me the dance floor is too small,” Baker said. “The new dance floor is going to be exceptionally bigger. They’re going to be so proud of me.”

The bigger dance floor will be one feature in what CNB officials tout as the only country-themed live entertainment venue among all Tulsa-area casinos. It will feature national and local musicians and offer bar seating, tables and a VIP mezzanine.

“Our loyal guests have consistently enjoyed the country venue, so we’re bringing it back,” CNB CEO Shawn Slaton said. “Our team is dedicated to providing the ultimate guest experience, and this expansion will allow us to exceed expectations yet again.”

Once completed, the expansion will add 450 electronic games, bringing the total to more than 3,000 throughout the casino.

The existing poker room will relocate from it’s central location to the expansion’s second floor where it will grow in size in an effort to bolster the casino’s poker reputation that features national stops, including the World Series of Poker.

Also in the expansion is a 6,800-square-foot multipurpose center that officials said will house comedy shows, intimate concerts, weddings and private events. The addition will increase Hard Rock’s meeting space to more than 80,000 square feet spanning the property.

Flintco started construction in April and is expected to complete it next spring. When it opens, it will require an additional 45 employees. CNB officials declined to provide a construction cost, but said it is a “significant investment.”

Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd said Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s gaming operations have come a long way since he was a Tribal Councilor discussing the possibility of gaming three decades ago.

“When I think of the progress we’ve made, it reminds me of 1987 when I was the youngest on the council,” said Byrd. “When we took the idea to council we were split. (Former Principal) Chief Wilma Mankiller and I said if we were going to pursue gaming it needs to go to health care, education, housing and economic development, and it’s worked.”

Byrd, who has watched the property grow from a bingo hall to an internationally branded casino and hotel operation, said he has always had a favorite location to take in the casino’s growth.

“When you get to hole 9 on the golf course, it’s up on a hill that looks out at the casino,” Byrd said. “Coming from where I come from in rural Sequoyah County, it’s an amazing sight to see where we came from to where we are today.”

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