BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Hard Rock International and the Bristol community celebrated the beginning of a permanent casino location in Bristol on Wednesday.
Hard Rock executives, Bristol leaders and local politicians celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking outside the former Bristol Mall site.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at 500 Gate City Highway in Bristol will be around 300,000 square feet and feature 1,300 slots, 50 game tables, a sports book, multiple dining options, an entertainment venue and more, a release from Hard Rock officials states.
“From the very start, this property’s economic and community impact has surpassed expectations, and we are thrilled to unveil what’s coming next,” said Jon Lucas, COO of Hard Rock International.
Lucas said the total cost of construction comes out to about $500 million.
Rising construction costs and supply chain issues forced Hard Rock to change the facility’s design from the original design.
“I think some supply chain issues and some construction costs that were escalating,” Lucas said. “So we took another look at what’s the best way to do this.”
Part of that new plan involves incorporating the currently-open temporary casino into the final design.
That will become the new non-smoking gaming floor at the full Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“We feel like the temporary facility came out so nice that with a little bit of sprucing up, we can make that part of the permanent as well,” Lucas said.
Despite those issues, Hard Rock said construction should be completed as expected in Summer 2024.
The project is said to create 900-1,000 construction jobs and once completed, the hotel and casino will bring over 1,200 full and part-time jobs to the Bristol area.
That’s double the amount of full and part-time jobs at the temporary casino.
“This is an exciting day for Bristol,” said Allie Evangelista, President of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol. “Our temporary casino has been a tremendous success, and we already have welcomed guests from all 50 states.”
Evangelista said the temporary casino has been a hit, welcoming over 600,000 guests since opening in July.
With that, Hard Rock has passed on $35 million in jackpots, and generated over $12 million in state gaming tax revenue, of which $4 million will stay in Bristol and Southwest Virginia.
Other casinos are opening around the Commonwealth, but Evangelista believes Hard Rock and Bristol can outdo those.
“Am I confident that we’re going to have the best product, the best entertainment, the best food, the best gaming opportunity?” Evangelista said. “Yes absolutely. I think that’s what we do great, and I think that it’s no competition for sure.”
That potential has city leaders excited as well, with hopes that tax revenues and tourism will grow.
“We welcome all of our visitors that are coming here now to the temporary site and will continue to come here for many years to come,” said Bristol, Virginia Mayor Anthony Farnum at the ceremony.
Evangelista said she believes the former high-traffic mall site is well-equipped to handle the crowds.
Work is expected to begin in two weeks with the demolition of the former Sears and JC Penney buildings. Then, renovation of the remaining parts of the mall will begin.
After the milestone of starting this new construction, Evangelista said there is room on site for expansion.
“Potentially additional hotel rooms. We’ve talked about that since day one when we disclosed the project coming in, so I think that’s something that would come up and then other entertainment venues,” Evangelista said.
Until the permanent location is complete in Summer 2024, guests can still enjoy the ‘Bristol Casino – Future Home of Hard Rock.’
Renderings of the permanent casino can be found here.