Hard Rock targets multiple segments of Tahoe market

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is undergoing an approximately $60 million renovation and redesign.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is undergoing an approximately $60 million renovation and redesign.

Positioning the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe to capture the various segments of the South Lake Tahoe hospitality and gaming market requires a careful balancing act for Hard Rock executives.

The problem? Is the $60 million remake of the former Horizon hotel intended as a destination for Bay Area hipsters with cash to burn from newly exercised stock options, or is it a place for older folks to gamble and check out cool memorabilia from beloved rock and roll artists? What about the Lake Tahoe locals, the international ski crowds who frequent nearby Heavenly Mountain Resort in the winter or the predominately middle-class families who vacation at Lake Tahoe in the summer?

The answer, says Hard Rock Chief Operations Officer Don Marrandino, is all of the above.

“We will have amenities for everyone to enjoy,” Marrandino said last week as he split time between the new Hard Rock development at South Lake and the iconic hotel-casino property in Las Vegas. “We spent a lot of time on memorabilia, and we have some Tahoe-specific stuff because a lot of stars live in Tahoe. There’s also a lot of San Francisco and Sacramento celebrities. There’s stuff from the greatest bands of all time and from young bands coming up. It will be like a museum of great one-of-a-kind rock-and-roll memorabilia.”

With its blend of unmatched outdoors beauty and legalized gambling, coupled with a diverse customer base ranging from billionaire technology moguls to ski lift operators, South Lake Tahoe occupies a unique position in the hospitality industry. Marrandino spent two years working at Lake Tahoe and says he’s still got a good handle on how to reach the many different demographics that make up customers of Tahoe-area hotels and casinos. The property, he said, will combine cool scenery, new restaurants and bars, and one-of-a-kind art.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe last week opened an on-site career center and website to begin hiring efforts for approximately 550 to 600 positions throughout the property, from finance, bartenders, casino entertainers, dealers, chefs, cooks, housekeepers, security, valet parking, engineers. Initial response from job seekers tripled expectations.

“In these times, with casinos around the country closing, it’s nice to be able to hire people,” Marrandino says. “We had unbelievable amounts of people apply in the first 48 hours.”

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe is slated to open in the late 2014 or early 2015. Renovation work is a total transformation from the 1960s-era Horizon property. Demolition crews stripped the building to its concrete shell and construction crews are starting from a blank slate on the 539 hotel rooms and casino and other ground-floor areas. MBA Architecture and Interior Design of Reno is designing the project.

Marrandino says because of the building’s age there’s been some asbestos abatement work, and due to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regulations, work on the exterior of the building is limited to repainting in an approved color rather than the typical white of other Hard Rock properties.


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