Hard Rock Remodel Combines Old and New

Well-known for being a major entertainment destination, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa blends the excitement of the Hard Rock brand with a first-class boutique hotel and casino. The massive complex consists of a 12-story hotel tower, pool, seven dining options, six bars, three enclosed parking facilities and a casino which—after a $75 million expansion—is now the sixth largest in the world!

The Seminole Hard Rock is important to both the Seminole tribe and the Hard Rock brand. It is the largest casino in the Seminole Gaming properties and represents a significant portion of Hard Rock-branded casino activity worldwide. Additionally, it provides income and employment for a great number of tribal members. Seminole Hard Rock Casino President, John Fontana explains: “This is the tribe’s largest and most profitable casino. In the community, it provides about 3,000 full-time jobs on site and hundreds of jobs in the local economy.” The recent expansion, completed in June 2012, saw the inclusion of additional gaming space, the Rise™ Kitchen & Bakery restaurant, a new pool area and the new five-story Winner’s Way parking garage with 1,300 spaces. But this is not all the project accomplished. Fontana is proud to inform us that in addition to a beautifully remodeled casino, the project created 500 construction jobs and added 400 new and permanent positions to the Hard Rock team, bringing their numbers to more than 3,300.

Old Partners Make it Easy
Facing a fairly aggressive—but reasonable—timeline of 12 months, Klai Juba Architects (KJA) and CLEO Design worked hard to get all their work done on schedule. Careful planning and quick thinking helped them meet their deadlines on time. KJA Senior Associate Steve Peck tells us that in order to speed things up, “[KJA] phased the construction documents and permits to accelerate getting the construction documents into the contractor’s hands.” Additionally, the existing relationship with the client/owner made it possible for the companies to start work immediately. Ann Fleming, principal of CLEO Design, tells us: “[CLEO] has worked with the KJA and Hard Rock Tampa team for many years since the Hard Rock’s initial opening in 2004. This relationship allowed us to begin designing immediately without having to take the time getting to know the team players or property.”

Communication was also key. CLEO, KJA and the Hard Rock team ensured they kept each other well-informed throughout the entire project. Ann Fleming says, “While working closely with the architect and consultants to expedite documents, we also had the opportunity for weekly conference calls and meetings with John Fontana and his team.”
She continues, “The Hard Rock team is very hands on; they always know what their guests want and are always clear in providing what the desired end result is for each new project we do for them.”

It was not difficult for KJA and CLEO design to figure out what needed to be done. The property already has a fully developed master plan and the remodel easily accommodated expansions horizontally and vertically. The main focus initially, was how to fit the entire project scope onto the existing site. This expansion had to be relatively compact as the owner wished to keep the existing pool intact. Ultimately, this decision worked to the property’s advantage as it tied the pool, casino and new restaurant area together.
It was important that the expansion keep with the existing theme; one that appeals to a wide range of clientele. Referring to the Hard Rock’s theme, Jane Lee, president of American Project Management, who works with CLEO, explains: “The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has a culture unique all to its own. It is a clever blend of music history, the glamour of Las Vegas-style gaming and a clientele that can vary from a more mature guest in the daytime to what may be described as a “club scene” party fan as the sun goes down.” Thus, this playground had to have a little bit of something for everyone.Lounge chairs and Chickee huts.
Lounge chairs and Chickee huts.

When approaching the remodel, CLEO’s goals were to create designs that were unique yet appropriate for the clientele, ensure that the remodel stayed true to both the Seminole and Hard Rock brands and maintain the energy, pizzazz and excitement of the original casino. The design group worked alongside the Hard Rock International branding team to ensure that their designs would appeal to the various patrons that frequent the resort. CLEO also wanted to make the new areas current. They chose to introduce finishes that complemented the existing design, but that also added a new modern feel, helping to update it.

KJA worked very closely with property management to ensure the new structures provide maximum benefits to the existing property. Together, they studied multiple expansion plans that would fit various gaming counts in order to figure out which would work best. They also considered the circulation needs for both vehicles and patrons and spent considerable time determining the best placement and orientation of the parking structure and the roads on the property that lead to it. Although they did run into a slight challenge when dealing with the Tampa soil—Florida soils can be tricky and provide some challenges—the diligence of the construction team and contractor allowed the project to open on time and under budget.

Pool bar and enterance to the pool area.
Pool bar and enterance to the pool area.
At the end of a year, the accelerated expansion project created new gaming and entertainment areas, a restaurant area, a pedestrian bridge/connector from a new garage to the casino, a new pool area, and it also remodeled existing areas that had been untouched since the opening of the facility. The new gaming floor comes within 12 feet of the existing pool and is situated right next to the pool bar. Wide, sliding glass doors open out from the casino, leading a patron through the pool bar to a poolside area where he or she can lay back on the lounge chairs that line the side, or seek seclusion under the tropical-style shaded chickee huts created by the Seminole tribe.

The new Rise Kitchen & Bakery, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s newest dining outlet, enjoys views to the pool; the restaurant and pool bar are all visibly within feet of each other. This restaurant is the ultimate delight for the palette with 10 hearth ovens baking specialty artisan breads, fresh soups, inventive salads, a variety of spreads, flatbreads, sandwiches and more than 40 sweet treats made from scratch daily. All items are prepared in an open view kitchen, allowing guests to view the baking process and indulge in the fresh-baked bread aroma.
The poolside area is a favorite with everyone. Boasting comfort, a lively, social vibe and a bar and restaurant just a few steps away, it all provides a refreshing and laid-back atmosphere for casino-goers, whether they’re dining, playing in the casino, relaxing at the bar or sunning on the deck. Klai Juba Architects and CLEO Design certainly made the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino a shining gem in the bright Sunshine state.

Owner: Seminole Hard Rock – Tampa
Operator: Seminole Gaming
Architect: Klai Juba Architects
Interior Designer: CLEO Design
Contractor: Turner Construction
Structural Engineer: DeSimone Consulting Engineers
MEP: Giovanetti-Shulman Associates
Specialty Lighting: The Ruzika Co.
Security / Surveillance: Malia and Associates
Audio/Visual: Technomedia
Landscape: EDSA
Signage: Reigstad & Associates