|By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 09, 2011-- The next step in the ongoing growth of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa officially kicked off Tuesday with the groundbreaking of the resort's $52 million third hotel tower.
When complete, the 10-story structure will add 100 suites to the existing 356 rooms and more than 55,000 square feet of entertainment and gaming space. The lower gaming area is slated to be finished in nine months, with the upper hotel area following three months later.
Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said during the groundbreaking that he's proud of Hard Rock's tremendous growth, which has made the resort rival anything in Las Vegas.
"I think I've been to about 10 different ribbon-cuttings at the casino," he said.
The new tower is being built in the same area that was damaged in a roof collapse during a blizzard last February. After the collapse, the area -- chiefly used for gaming and a food court -- was closed and gutted in preparation for construction.
David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said the new tower will replace the gaming area lost in the collapse, as well as provide a food court with new casual dining options.
The centerpiece of the smoke-free gaming area will be a two-story sports-theme "media bar," which will be enveloped by curving walls featuring numerous video panels on both sides.
Stewart said the sports theme will help broaden the casino's appeal.
"We've been able to react to our customers' demands, and this experience is no different," he said.
Despite the theme, the media bar will not add sports-themed gambling. Stewart said all of the hotel suites will be large, open areas with spacious bathrooms and ample space for additional features.
"We decided to build a big room so that it feels more like home," he said.
The resort's two existing towers are consistently 90 percent occupied, Stewart said. The taller of the two tops off at 19 stories.
Baker said that the resort's growth should provide more funding for social services to the Cherokee Nation, as well as create jobs and help the area economy.
"These are the things that will help take northeast Oklahoma out of recession and into prosperity," he said.
The first building that would eventually grow into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa was built in 1993. With a footprint of 40,750 square feet, it employed about 80 people.
Today, the resort has greatly expanded its gaming space and features The Joint, a 2,700-seat theater and concert venue, multiple bars, restaurants and nightclubs, a convention center and a golf course. The complex employs 1,444 people.
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447 firstname.lastname@example.org
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