Hard Rock intends to put on a good show for Atlantic City when it reopens the former Trump Taj Mahal under its own brand this summer.
Three or four months out, we’re finally getting some solid details on what to expect from the new property. This week, Hard Rock AC president Matt Harkness provided Philly Voice with a thorough rundown of the plans, both inside and out.
The company expects to invest up to $500 million for renovations on top of the $50 million it paid to purchase the site last year.
Go play outside Hard Rock AC
Providing the most visible signs of progress, workers have been renovating the exterior for the past couple months. The old minarets are now rusting in the scrapyard.
To this point, most of what we knew related to the outside of the building, based on observations and public permits and such. Hard Rock has definite plans to build a Boardwalk beach bar, for one thing. It also plans to offer poolside and restaurant gaming according to a document obtained by the Associated Press.
Last week, Hard Rock announced that it would erect a 53-foot guitar in the property’s entrance. An icon on its own, the outline of the Fender Stratocaster has become synonymous with the Hard Rock brand around the world. There will be 14 other guitars scattered around the perimeter, and the building will bear a sign that reads, “Welcome back friends to the show that never ends.”
We also know what the porte cochère will look like via rendering (see above). The contemporary look is a big departure from the gaudy, gold-painted fixtures of the dated Taj entrance.
What about inside the doors, though?
A glimpse inside Hard Rock AC
Hard Rock purchased the property in moderate condition last year, and its renovation budget hinted at big plans for the interior. The original hotel was built in 1990 and last updated in 2008.
Harkness confirmed the extent of the work going on inside. “Every inch of the building is going to be completely redone,” he said. “We’re going all the way down to the concrete — in the hotel rooms, the casino floor, the restaurants.” More than 2,000 rooms will be redesigned and refinished.
Harkness described the future Hard Rock AC as “spectacularly beautiful, contemporary yet comfortable and welcoming to the guests in terms of the presentation.”
“It’s going to be on the level of what you see in Hollywood, as well as in Tampa,” he said. “I believe it’s going to be the centerpiece for gaming in the Northeast.” The Seminole Tribe licenses the Hard Rock brand for two of its South Florida casinos which have become the jewels of the region.
“The fit and finish of the property is going to be spectacular,” Harkness restated.
Food and entertainment focal
Hard Rock has blossomed from rock and roll into a powerful gaming brand in the 21st century. It now has 11 casinos in its portfolio with the addition of this new venture in New Jersey. But it’s still an entertainment company first, and music remains the foundation of its casino endeavors.
Hard Rock AC will have two primary music venues, the Etess Arena and Xanadu. Both were part of the Taj, and both are being completely reworked.
The arena will be expanded by about 35 percent to fit 7,000 seats. For the sake of comparison, Borgata’s largest indoor entertainment venue holds 2,400 people. Jim Allen, the parent company’s CEO, said the property aims to host 200 shows within its first year.
Smaller gigs are a part of Hard Rock’s musical experience, too. The bars and restaurants at its Florida properties often showcase local performers in nightly shows amid cozier settings. That will be the case in Atlantic City, too. Harkness indicated plans for a variety of midweek entertainment options in his interview.
He also shed some more light on what the food and beverage options will look like.
Hard Rock AC will bring back the fancy Il Mulino New York and the popular White House Sub Shop from the Taj, for starters. It will also install some of its own options, including upscale Japanese cuisine from Kuro. And, of course, a Hard Rock Cafe, which will be relocated from its current spot in the building.
Harkness doesn’t have an exact reopening date to announce yet, but he confirmed they’re still on schedule for summer.
Rolling the dice on online gambling, sports betting?
Plans for the Hard Rock online casino were among the first to be finalized.
Last month, the company announced a partnership with the Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to power its NJ online casino product. GiG is a large European iGaming provider making its entry into the US market.
The deal could pave the way for NJ sports betting at Hard Rock, too. GiG has its own partnership with Perform that allows it to provide sports betting to its online casino clients. Although the industry is still federally prohibited outside of Nevada, NJ is working to change that via the US Supreme Court.
If NJ sports betting becomes legal, Hard Rock will have a pretty clear path into that space, too. Harkness has confirmed that the property intends to explore sports-based gambling.