TULSA, OK (AP) – The Midwest's first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened Monday outside Tulsa, following a $155 million expansion by the Cherokee Nation that rebranded the expansive gaming and entertainment resort.
The new Hard Rock is located just outside the city in the suburb of Catoosa, and features more than 125,000 square feet of gaming space, several nightclubs and more than $2 million in rock music memorabilia on display.
It also has 35,000 square feet of convention space, a 170-acre golf course and 350 luxury hotel rooms, among other amenities.
The facility is only the seventh of its kind in the world, officials said, and will be operated by the Cherokee Nation's gaming and retail entity, Cherokee Nation Entertainment. The Cherokee Nation claims more than 280,000 citizens and employs more than 6,500 people.
"We understand entertainment is a business, and we want to be good at it," said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, which has an estimated economic impact in the state and area of more than $1 billion a year. "We want to become a regionally known entertainment center, and Hard Rock, with its name recognition, will help us extend that experience."
The re-branding of the facility from the Cherokee Casino to the Hard Rock Hotel took two years. Last year, Cherokee Nation Entertainment signed a licensing agreement with Hard Rock Holdings LLC. The agreement did not include a Hard Rock Cafe.
David Stewart, the CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said plans are in the works to expand the brand throughout the resort, perhaps adding a retail component featuring a cinema.
"Oklahoma is the third-largest gaming market in the United States," Stewart said. "It is hungry for world-class entertainment in the gaming industry, and we've always been innovators in our market."
Stewart said the resort will be unique because it will bring a Midwest flavor to the Hard Rock brand.
"It expands the brand across a lot of demographic and music interests," he said. "We view the Hard Rock as a license to freedom and to express yourself."