‘More’ the watchword as Hard Rock AC rolls towards its fifth anniversary; Kelsey Grammer hits Tropicana
On June 28, 2018, what had been the hulking wreck of Trump Taj Mahal Casino-Resort was officially resurrected as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Since then it’s been full-speed ahead as the music-themed adult playpen has consistently trailed only Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in the casino-revenue horserace.
Equally significant is that Hard Rock has usurped the Big B’s longtime status as the AyCee home for music-and-comedy A-listers. And that, says the property’s president, will remain the game plan as The Rock preps for its milestone anniversary—and beyond.
“We’ve committed over $30 million in entertainment investment” for 2023, said George Goldhoff during a recent sit-down in his office. “I want to say that’s 25 percent higher than last year. And that’s just at the [7,000-seat] Etess Arena and 1,500-capacity] Sound Waves. It does not include what we do on a daily and nightly basis in our lobby bar [and other spaces].”
While that 25 percent figure could simply be a result of increasing costs for talent and production, Goldhoff who has been running the show at Hard Rock since last fall, insisted it’s solely a reflection of his gaming hall’s dedication to its brand.
“Entertainment is in our DNA,” he offered, referring to the Hard Rock International hospitality-industry conglomerate. “We have the largest collection of music memorabilia on the face of the planet--84,000 pieces throughout the globe in 70 countries and 290 locations. Entertainment is our brand. And we lead casino entertainment on the East Coast.”
Indeed, the warm-weather months will see such top-shelf acts as Janet Jackson (May 20); The Jonas Brothers (May 23); Tina Fey & Amy Pohler (June 11-12; one of only four dates the pair are doing); Diana Ross (June 24); Santana (July 28-29); Keith Urban (Sept. 1-2) and Sting (Sept. 3). However, for Goldhoff, a particular point of pride is the booking of artists who aren’t necessarily considered traditional “casino acts.” Among these are jam-banders Gov’t Mule (July 22, appearing with Jason Bonham’s Evening, led by the son of Led Zeppelin’s late drummer, John Bonham) and hard-rock unit Incubus.
Also on the agenda is the late-June debut of a new, once-a-week production show from AC-based impresario Allen Valentine.
But the plans for the remainder of the year extend well beyond the realm of show business. Another area being targeted is the care and pampering of high rollers.
“On our 41st floor, we have a series of large specialty suites,” explained Goldhoff. “We're going to upgrade our entire 41st floor. And, back in the Taj Mahal days, there was this large suite called the Maharaja Suite, where there were events and small parties. We'll be reinventing that as a villa.”
Also on the docket for top-tier players is a new iteration of the private Plum Lounge which will be an indoor/outdoor space overlooking the Boardwalk, and which will offer expanded year-round operating hours.
Loyal customers whose level of play doesn’t quite merit stays on the 41st floor and access to Plum Lounge are not being forsaken. According to Goldhoff, players who qualify for “Rock Royalty” status will find their own retreat, Legends Lounge, receiving upgrades.
“We're increasing the seating capacity there,” he explained. “And we're also improving exterior buffet line where we'll have live-action cooking stations. For example, in the mornings we can make omelets to order. And we'll have a carving station.”
As for what the general public can enjoy (beyond the shows), Goldhoff pointed to the casino floor’s constantly updated inventory of electronic games, and a first-floor wine-and-liquor store called The Cellar that is set to open by the end of this month.
There is one other project that Goldhoff hopes will have a positive impact on his property, although Hard Rock has no direct involvement in its development and implementation. That would be Island Waterpark, the giant (100,000 square feet), family-friendly, indoor-outdoor complex that, when it opens in a few weeks at The Rock’s next-door neighbor, Showboat Hotel, will be the largest such beachfront facility in the world.
“I’m absolutely delighted that our portion of the Boardwalk is getting another attraction,” he said. “It'll be another demand generator. It's a healthy family attraction, and I'm excited to see how it energizes this portion of the Boardwalk.”
Grammer’s Trop drop-in
Kelsey Grammer, who spent some two decades at the top of the sitcom heap as a supporting player in Cheers and star of the Cheers spinoff, Frasier, will be tending bar at A’Dam Good Sports Bar inside Tropicana Atlantic City on May 6.
Grammer, who copped four Lead Actor-Comedy Series Primetime Emmy awards for his portrayal of Seattle psychiatrist-cum-radio-personality Frasier Crane (and one for his voicing of “Sideshow Bob” on The Simpsons), will be doing the meet-and-greet thing as the front man for Faith American Brewing Company, the New York State brewery he co-founded in 2015. He’ll be there from 7 to 9 p.m.
The actor, who’s currently prepping a reboot of Frasier for the Paramount+ streaming service, obviously has a soft spot for Atlantic City. Since May of last year, he’s beaten the drum for his beer at Hard Rock, Resorts Casino-Hotel and Golden Nugget Atlantic City, as well as Firewaters at the Trop and several non-casino saloons.
Hard Rock’s is hardly the only notable anniversary that will be celebrated between now and Independence Day.
On May 26, Resorts will mark 45 years since the day what was then Resorts International Casino-Hotel became the first legal gambling den outside of Nevada.
Next, June 25 will be the 30th anniversary of legal poker in Atlantic City (for the record, the first hand was played at the long-gone Sands Casino-Hotel). And three days later (the same day Hard Rock celebrates five years of existence), Ocean Casino-Resort will figuratively blow out five candles.
June 30 will see the 15th anniversary of Borgata’s Water Club complex (which will soon be re-christened as the MGM Tower. And finally, on July 3 Borgata itself will be 20 years old.