Harrah’s Cherokee Casino officials: New rotunda will rival Vegas attractions – Asheville Citizen
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CHEROKEE — Harrah’s Cherokee Casino has a new front door.
The rotunda space features eight towering columns lit from inside that give an artistic impression of trees; a 75-foot-tall waterfall surrounding a small stage; and a curving high-definition television screen that’s 140 feet long and 6 feet tall. Light, video and accompanying sound can all be programmed to create one-of-a-kind shows.
It’s all still under construction, but casino officials took a group of media representatives on a tour Tuesday to offer a sneak peek at the work. When it opens later this summer, the majestic entrance will offer a feature that rivals Las Vegas casino attractions such as the dancing waterfall at the Bellagio hotel, casino officials said. The Cherokee casino’s waterfall, in fact, was designed by the same company that created the famous Bellagio feature.
“Once an hour every hour, a new show will play, and with everything working together — the screen, the waterfall and the tree lighting — it will create a show that you will see people gathering together to come and watch,” said Erik Sneed, the casino’s project manager for the new construction.
The grand new entrance will stand as the centerpiece of a $650 million expansion that’s been in the works for eight years. It has included the addition of 500 rooms in a new hotel tower, a 3,000-seat event center and thousands of square feet of added gaming space. There are additional restaurants in the works, including a high-end Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Brio, a Tuscan-themed eatery, and an 18,000-square-foot spa on the way.
The entire expansion project is set to be completed this fall. It all comes on the casino’s 15th anniversary, and marks the casino’s evolution into a gaming, spa and resort destination aiming for new, upscale customers. With about 3.5 million visitors a year, the casino is North Carolina’s largest tourist attraction and is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Brooks Robinson, the casino’s general manager, said the rotunda space will be a “must-see attraction.” That, combined with a total of 150,000 square feet of gaming space, 4,100 slot machines and 40 video table games, means the casino is positioned for growth, Robinson said.
Indeed, the casino is planning on 25 percent growth in visitation once the expansion is complete, according to spokeswoman Aniwake Littledeer. Casino officials are also awaiting final approval of live card games. Gov. Bev Perdue signed an agreement with the Eastern Band last year to do just that, but state lawmakers must still vote to amend state law to allow the Las Vegas-style card games. The federal government must also agree.
The addition of live gaming “would be a huge milestone” in the development of the casino, Sneed said. It would allow further expansion and be a boon to state coffers and the local economy, he said. The casino would add an estimated 400 employees to the nearly 2,000 workers it now employs, he said.
“We don’t know what will happen in May,” when the General Assembly returns to session, Sneed said. “We’re just hopeful.”
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