BRISTOL, Va. — A temporary casino is quickly taking shape inside the old Bristol Mall, and it’s expected to open around Memorial Day while the permanent version and other major amenities are expected in 2024.
Construction of the temporary space inside the former Belk women’s store is on schedule, and operators Hard Rock International have hired part of the management team that will manage the facility. They expect to expand their hiring very soon, Hard Rock chief operating officer Jon Lucas told the Bristol Herald Courier on Friday.
“We are thrilled to be part of the community,” Lucas said. “The response from the community has been nothing short of excellent. The people really embraced us and were so helpful and cooperative.
Lucas and members of the Hard Rock staff were in town for two events – Friday to meet potential vendors and today to speak with potential employees at programs hosted by the Foundation’s event center.
Lucas said the temporary facility is “on track” and they hope to open it in late May or by June 1.
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“The temporary facility will be called ‘Casino Bristol, Future Home of Hard Rock’. When we call it Hard Rock, it must have all the important elements that go with a Hard Rock casino hotel,” Lucas said.
“While that’s nice, it won’t be anything like the Hard Rock that we’re going to build as a permanent facility. It’ll be in a section of the mall that’s planned for phase two. Once we’ve built that, it won’t ‘will not interfere with the construction of the permanent facility,’ Lucas said.
Lucas said the temporary facility will offer a cross section of games with limited dining options.
“The temporary worker will have a seated restaurant with 200 seats. We will have a grab-and-go, which will have about 30 seats. We will have a sports bar with sports betting and the sports bar will also serve food,” Lucas said. “Plans currently call for approximately 875 slot machines and 22 table games. The space will include a separate non-smoking area with a separate entrance. There will be a high limit area with slot machines and tables and our club of players, a retail store and ample parking.
This is all dependent on the Virginia Lottery Board approving its gaming license, which they are currently working on.
“We have submitted all of our applications, both as individuals and as companies with our partners, and are awaiting approval for our licenses,” Lucas said. “Virginia Lottery has been incredibly cooperative. We have a monthly meeting with them on the job site, and they couldn’t be more helpful in helping us get things done.”
The permanent casino will be built in the old Sears store, and that’s also on schedule.
“Alongside the work on the temporary casino, we are working on permanent planning, scope and programming. This is evolving alongside the temporary casino. We plan to open it in 2024,” he said. “We are still planning a 300 room hotel, a good sized casino, plenty of food and drink outlets and Hard Rock Live. All of those components are there with phase two, including the second hotel tower and probably additional retail, but the scope of phase one is pretty much what we discussed earlier.
Lucas said more than 200 people participated in the vendor program and they ran out of space for today’s event with potential employees.
“We had a great turnout with 200 people. Although we have some national contracts, corporate contracts, to take advantage of pricing and economies of scale,” Lucas said. “When we go to a community, it’s important to involve the local community and the local suppliers and to be part of that community. It’s an important part of who we are as a company.
“These sessions are great for talking to them a bit about the types of services we have or need, how they need to go through the vendor licensing process and what our process is, as a business, and educate them about our industry since the industry is new to these areas. Secondly, that’s what the opportunities could be for all of these people. We had a lot of great questions and a lot of interesting interactions, so that was a very exciting time today,” he said.
Lucas said Hard Rock has chosen its property president, vice president of marketing, vice president of human resources, food and beverage, executive chef and facilities manager and many are already in place. .
Today’s job fair is ahead of the next round of hiring.
“Some of them are informative, and some of them are starting to interview some of the positions that will come up a bit sooner than others,” Lucas said. “We are preparing a dealer training school as we take about six weeks to train people on the various games we have dealers for, and that process will also start hiring here soon.”
Other important positions that will soon be hired are construction site security and supervision and human resource personnel to facilitate the hiring process.
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