It was close. Close enough for rock ’n’ roll.
Completion of a $60 million remodel of a huge, historic Lake Tahoe Casino in less than six months seemed like a long shot. But with the help of a mild early start to winter, more than 700 men at work met the Jan. 28th deadline.
In a scene as crowded as New Year’s Eve in South Shore’s Stateline Casino Corridor, thousands of people packed to capacity the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe on Wednesday while several hundred more waited to get in at the front entrance next to a monstrous guitar sculpture.
Hard Rock created 500 jobs, its hotel has 539 rooms, the casino includes a sports book, and there will be four live music venues on the property. On this night, Lake Tahoe felt like it was back as the vacation destination. A whole lotta love resonated along with rock music throughout the site and in Vinyl, the largest – for now – music venue, where Reno’s Mojo Green played for 500 concertgoers.
“This is an out-of-the-park-home run game changer,” said South Lake Tahoe Councilman Tom Davis, who since the 1970s worked on the property through its times as the High Sierra, the Sahara Tahoe and the Horizon. “I’ve been here when it was on top and I’ve seen it at the bottom, and now it’s back on top. What a ride it’s been.”
Don Marrandino, the senior vice president of operations for Warner Hospitality who also worked across the street at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe from 2003-2005, said the Hard Rock Hotel is one of the top five brands in the world, “up there with Coke and Pepsi.”
He said the company encourages individualism from its employees and job applicants with long hair and tattoos, adding Hard Rock appeals the young as well as old.
“Not youthful in age but youthful in feeling,” he said. “Mick Jagger is 70
and we play him as much as anybody.”
The rock and roll memorabilia motif includes plenty of Elvis Presley items, including the original poster from his 1976 spring and summer stints in the building, and the Elvis Suite remains as one of the hotel rooms. Presley played here 106 times.
Warwick Stone, who acquires memorabilia for Hard Rock, says the items rotate throughout properties all around the world. However, some of the displays are permanent.
“We’re not going to move Garth Brooks out of Oklahoma and we will not move Elvis from Lake Tahoe,” he said.
This begs the question, when they move the memorabilia to different venues, is the Elton John art always placed near the rest rooms as it is at Tahoe?
In addition to Presley’s history at the property, Stone noted Johnny Cash also played here, and Isaac Hayes recorded at live album in the old showroom, which was replaced several years ago with movie theaters.
The theater area is closed off now, but there is the potential to use the space again for a large music venue. Like the farmers who discovered buried
terracotta warriors in Xi’an, China, construction crews found a still-functional stage elevator beneath the theaters.
Steve Tague drove from Pollock Pines to attend Wednesday’s opening.
“I am amazed from what it was before to what it is now, and with all the cool stuff, too,” he said.
With about 80 Hard Rock pins from the places he’s visited attached to his Hard Rock shirt, Sacramento’s Doug Jackson anxiously awaited the souvenir store to open. Why is he such a big fan?
“When you are traveling around Europe, and after a couple of weeks you want to eat a real hamburger, you can go the Hard Rock,” he said.
With a 25-foot guitar out front, the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe will be easy to find for folks starved for music or food or the chance to go tumbling dice.
While the sculpture made of old farm equipment and car parts isn’t intended to replicate a specific brand, it is undeniably a Martin guitar. It was built by Terrence Martin of Jagged Edge Metal Art of Sacramento. Although Martin attended Gardnerville’s Douglas High School with heirs of the Park family — the owners of the land — it wasn’t instrumental in him getting the job. In order to get the attention of the international company, Martin made an 8-foot version of the guitar and placed it in the gutted casino during the remodel. Visiting executives noticed and were impressed with the sculpture and hired Martin to create the signature landmark, which can be spun so photographers take take photos with the hotel or Heavenly mountain in the background. Martin demonstrated the maneuver with one arm, although at 2,200 pounds the guitar is in the category of heavy metal.
The Hard Rock’s economic impact will reach beyond South Shore, according to Max Volume, the KOZZ-FM radio personality.
“What’s good for Tahoe is good for Reno,” he said. “It’s a huge leap to capture the crown of this brand in South Lake Tahoe on Highway 50. It has increased the value of all the properties. This is a huge home run for us.”
In addition to Vinyl, which is in the area where the Golden Cabaret used to be, solo and duo artists will perform in the Park Prime restaurant, adorned with images of the Park family’s land in the Carson
Valley. Fire Break is an indoor and outdoor bar and restaurant at the Hard Rock’s entrance which also will feature live music. In summertime there will be a summer pool series, which will rival Las Vegas pool parties, organizers said. Summer music in the parking lot behind the venue, and next to Harvey’s lot, which is from June to September hosts major concerts, is expected to have live music too, however no one confirmed this on the opening night.
Marrandino said Vinyl will feature many kinds of music, including pop, reggae and country. He also said local bands would be included in the mix.
Earlier this week, more shows were announced: the Saddle Tramps on Feb. 5, which is will be free, the English Beat on Feb. 7 and Starset on Feb. 13.
There will be three concerts this weekend in Vinyl:
Thursday, Jan. 29, Uncle Kracker. Genre: Rock. Became well known for solo hits such as “Follow Me” and “Endlessly”. Tickets start at $61, plus tax and fees.
Friday, Jan. 30, Skid Row. Genre: Punk, metal, hard rock. With a string of No. 1 gold and multi-platinum singles in the late 1980s and early ’90s the band has added a new release, “United World Rebellion – Park”, which it says it is excited to unleash live on stage at Vinyl. Tickets start at $50, plus tax and fees.
Saturday, Jan. 31, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts. Genre: Rock. Weiland has had multi-platinum success with alternative rock bands Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Tickets start at $50, plus tax and fees.
Sunday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl XLIX viewing party. Several large screens throughout the casino, with all-you-can-eat menu and 2 beverage tickets included. Cost: $25 per person.
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.
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