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Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens

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POSTED January 29, 2015 8:05 p.m.

STATELINE, Nev. (AP) — A shuttered hotel-casino on the south shore of Lake Tahoe has reopened under the Hard Rock banner after a $60 million renovation that local business and tourism officials hope will help jump-start the struggling main casino drag in the shadow of a big ski resort.

Owners of the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at Lake Tahoe kicked off the grand opening Wednesday by shattering an ice sculpture of a guitar as hundreds cheered outside the newest property in the chain known for its rock ‘n’ roll theme.

Most recently operated as the Horizon, it first opened in 1965 as Del Webb’s Sahara Tahoe and hosted more than 100 performances by Elvis Presley over the years.

With more than 500 remodeled rooms and a 25,000-square-foot casino floor, it is expected to employ about 500 people.

“We knew the south Tahoe market needed something good to happen,” said Jon Park, whose family rebuilt and operated the Horizon before it closed early last year. They’re hoping it will help the Heavenly Mountain ski resort and others in the area better compete with popular skiing destinations in Colorado and Utah.

“We kicked a lot of tires. The Hard Rock brand is internationally known, and it fits the Tahoe vibe. That’s our ace in the hole: Lake Tahoe,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal before thousands of visitors got their first glimpse of the new digs.

Hundreds of pieces of memorabilia line the walls, including one of Michael Jackson’s gloves, a beat-up guitar from Green Day and clothes from the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood.

The entrance door handles are miniature guitars. Employees list their favorite band on their name tags. Lyrics from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” are on the back railing of the elevators.

Park and his brother David, who own Neva One LLC, acquired the property last year and shut it down for redesign and renovation in April. They announced at that time they were entering a partnership with Warner Hospitality.

Don Marrandino, senior vice president of operations for Warner in charge of the Hard Rock at Tahoe, said it will be a big step up for “an area that hasn’t reinvented itself.”

“This is a world-class destination. Hard Rock is saying to the world, ‘Come to Tahoe,’” he said. “Now, when we compete against Vail and Utah, it gives us a little bit of an advantage.”

Marrandino told Lake Tahoe News efforts are underway to renovate the old suite where Elvis stayed when he performed 106 times at the old Sahara.

“We are modernizing it without taking the Elvis out of it,” he said.

In the lobby is the original poster from one of Elvis’ shows in the 1970s in Lake Tahoe. The cocktail performance cost $20 and included two drinks.

Some analysts have raised concerns the Hard Rock will have difficulty finding long-term success, given faltering gambling revenues across the Tahoe Basin in recent years largely at the hand of tribal casinos in California.

“They’ll make a splash. The name itself will get attention. A Hard Rock opening is a big deal,” said Ken Adams, a Reno gambling analyst.

“However, that’s a finite gaming market that’s shrinking, and the only way one more property can get business is taking it from other casinos,” he told the Gazette-Journal. “It has nothing to do with how nice a property is, but how difficult the market there is, and it’s a really difficult market.”

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