South Shore party scene to be ramped up with Hard Rock hotel-casino opening in winter

Hard Rock Lake Tahoe expects to open in the 2014-15 ski season.

Hard Rock Lake Tahoe expects to open in the 2014-15 ski season.

By Kathryn Reed

Party central – that is what the former Horizon casino is about to be transformed into when it opens this winter as Hard Rock Lake Tahoe.

Don Marrandino, aka Big D to those who knew him when he oversaw Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys from 2003-05, is going to run the property. He is headquartered out of the Las Vegas Hard Rock where he recently returned after having a stint in Atlantic City.

Lake Tahoe News in March was the first publication to reveal the Stateline property would be a Hard Rock Hotel.

Don Marrandino, who has worked at Lake Tahoe before, will be overseeing the Hard Rock. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Don Marrandino, who has worked at Lake Tahoe before, will be overseeing the Hard Rock. Photo/Kathryn Reed

“The Hard Rock is known for music and fun,” Marrandino said July 17 during the public announcement.

And Marrandino is known for his love of rock ‘n’ roll. He is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and Sammy Hagar.

What the music venue or restaurant scene will be like at the new hotel was not released – just that there will be plenty of both. Marrandino was with Caesars Entertainment when Toby Keith opened his I Love This Bar & Grill at Harrah’s Las Vegas. Keith’s closest restaurant to Tahoe is in Folsom. And Keith has played at Harveys Outdoor Concert Series more than once.

Hagar has his Cabo Wabo at Harveys. Plus, there is a Hard Rock Restaurant at Harveys.

Hard Rock restaurants and hotels are separate companies that no longer have anything to do with each other. The restaurant is essentially a concessionaire of the hotel.

Marrandino told Lake Tahoe News he doesn’t see a problem with the restaurant next door, saying the hotel’s marketing will be so different no one will be confused.

Marrandino also promised to create the area’s largest outdoor pool party. Entertainment will be poolside, too, just like in Vegas.

Anyone familiar with the Las Vegas Hard Rock knows the property is all about partying – from the Rehab pool to the 4,500-seat Joint music venue.

When the Tahoe property first opened in 1965 as Del Webb’s Sahara-Tahoe, Elvis Presley, Phyllis Diller and the Osmond Brothers would play there. It was like having a Las Vegas style hotel-casino in Lake Tahoe.

It may return to that same glory.

MontBleu’s showroom is the largest on the South Shore with seating for 1,400. A larger capacity indoor venue has long been talked about within the community.

The Horizon closed earlier this year after having been neglected for years. Photo/LTN

The Horizon closed earlier this year after having been neglected for years. Photo/LTN

Brothers Jon and David Park are infusing nearly $60 million to revamp the property from top to bottom. All 539 rooms are being remodeled, with the goal of creating a four-star hotel. The 25,000-square-feet of gaming will include slots and table games.

The Park family split their holdings last fall, with the brothers getting the Horizon. The brothers formed Neva One LLC. They promised not to be absentee property owners. After all, the Park family has been part of the Tahoe-Carson Valley fabric since the 1800s.

(MontBleu, which is across the street from the Horizon, is an Edgewood Companies property. The lease with Tropicana Entertainment out of Las Vegas expires in 2028.)

Warner Hospitality, which owns or manages 10 casino properties in Southern Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, California and Washington, will operate the hotel. Warner owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that will open this summer in Sioux City, Iowa, and manages Hard Rock Las Vegas.

The promise is for the Tahoe Hard Rock to open during the 2014-15 ski season.

Heavenly Mountain Resort wants a part of the Hard Rock action.

John Wagnon, who heads the ski resort’s marketing department, repeatedly said, the Hard Rock is “a game changer.”

“It elevates the entire region,” Wagnon said. “They have the same target audience. It couldn’t be a better fit for Heavenly.”

That audience is young, likes to drink and likes to party. Heavenly was trying to showcase its young attitude with the Heavenly Angels (young women not dressed in much wearing platform shoes on the mountain handing out Champagne) during the announcement, which was at the resort’s gondola midstation.

There’s a small storefront near the gondola in Heavenly Village that is a preview center for Hard Rock Lake Tahoe.


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Comments (47)
  1. reloman says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    At the press party, they said that they plan on spending 55 million, not 60 million

  2. Tahoebluewire says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    This is awesome depending on your perspective. From my perspective, this is awesome!

  3. Bob says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Really? A Vegas styled casino for drunken wild parties? Hope it fails.

  4. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    I was hoping the Park brothers would be trying to attract more familes, seniors and a high end clientele.
    I was wrong! There goin’ for the partyin’ young crowd, drinking and doing drugs. It’s their property so they can do what they want with it. The rest of us will pay the price with public drunkeness, drug use and all night partys.
    Oh well, I guess some things never change. OLS

  5. J&B says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Think July 5th trashed beaches…but now all summer long and not confined to just the beaches! Just what our community needs, let alone the lake. Sad.

  6. KATHY says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Sounds good, A hard Rock Casino, Bring it on, and have fun, You only live once , and life is short ,Dont tell me negative ,Its a good thing ,Think Positive for a change It might do you good ,

  7. Lia says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    So is the movie theater returning or gone??

  8. Jo says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    WAHOOOOOOO! Tahoe needs new life and the Hard Rock name can bring it. Harrahs already has the electric cart gambler on lockdown.

  9. Sliced says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Why would Hard Rock upgrade the rooms? They are targeting the same clients that demand $40 hotel rooms. Keep them as they are and sell packages that include drinks. That way you are too drunk to care about the 30 year old rooms. Just make all the rooms themed after Keith Richards and Billy Idol. Through an old school poster on the wall and call it a day.

  10. Frank says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    OLS’s view explains why the complainers naysayers will never change. 500 jobs, $55 million in construction jobs being brought into town, those people will in turn shop and spend money here recycling those dollars and yet he view’s it as a horrible thing, gonna run down Tahoe. If $50 million remodel, using their own money not our money, not tax money, not your money, along with 500 jobs, if that can be viewed in a bad light then it’s time to learn there are some people who can’t even see the sun shinning

  11. Lou Pierini says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Frank, I agree. Mi tres centavos

  12. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Frank, My comment was just in regards in that I wished they were seeking a different clientele.
    Look, I spent plenty of years here on the wild party train that is SLT and had lots of fun! So I’m all too familiar with that lifestyle,
    I was just hoping for something a little more upscale reaching out to a different demographic of customers.
    On a side note, all the construction companys employed by the Park brothers are locally owned and hired locals to do the work…right?
    My negativity? Been thru that revolving door over many years and it never changes. Just keep repeating the same mistakes. Kinda like the june bug that keeps flyin’ into your window and can’t figure why it can’t get in.
    Frank and other propenents of the revamped Sahara, I have no bone to pick with you. We can just politely agree to disagree. I was just hopin’ for something a little different. Thats just my take on it.OLS

  13. reloman says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    since this is going to be a 4 star, 4 diamond resort and aiming for the higher end younger crowd there will not be any 40 dollar rooms here. I am guessing that many of these same people go to aspen or Park city but will come here because of the type of casino this will be. You can bet that the Vegas one is not $40 rooms.

  14. Parker says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Don definitely and consistently peddles sleaze! (I gather he did it at this big announcement?) He certainly did it when he was at Harrah’s here in town previously. And not just with things like getting Cabo going, but do you remember the almost non-existent uniforms he designed for the original female Cabo staff? Do you remember the LTVA ad campaigns he pushed for and got going? And do you remember when the nightclub Altitude was renamed Vex (With a rhyming word obviously being the implication.)

    But it obviously worked as Don left with a promotion to go run 5 of then Harrah’s, now Caesars, Vegas casinos. And Don’s leaving subsequently has led to the slow, yet steady decline in Harrah’s/Harveys business.

    So the selling of sleaze certainly worked to a degree. But the Big D clearly pushed the line too often in that I know both here in Tahoe, and if you Google him during his Atlantic City Caesars tenure, Don at times ran afoul with local Gaming Control. Which probably is what led to his being pushed out of that company.

    But with Don’s and Warner Gaming’s ambitious nature, combined with the willingness to invest significant $, the town should get some needed buzz, hype and customers (though what kind of customers?). Thus,with certain past issues, maybe a degree of caution should be thrown in with all the excitement & promise?

    Plus, while all the investment will mean added jobs and economic strength, it’s not a total plus. If the new hotel is not taking in the struggling Hard Rock Cafe, whose lease is up soon, clearly can’t compete with a new hotel next door, plus when I say struggling I mean both locally, where to the naked eye it does half what it used to do, and on the corporate level where there have been big cutbacks, it clearly will be shutting its doors.

    But overall, it’s good to see that people with money think Tahoe is worth the investment!

  15. reza says - Posted: July 17, 2014

    Bet you Heavenly moves a big chunk of their marketing budget into the Hard Rock. Also reunites Blaise CarriG with his old running buddy Don Marandino.

    This place will do it right! I hope. $50 million isn’t much. Only $10,000 a room for the remodel and that leaves nothing for the pool, floor, restaurants, etc. In Vegas they would tear it down and rebuild. But I’m hopeful there will be more money.

    The big question is whether Harrah’s and Harvey’s want to play ball, sell or cry poor. Every dealer and bartender will jump ship.

  16. david dewitt says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Here we go again another failed casino. Will we ever learn, things change except in Tahoe where we go down the sane drain over and over again.

  17. hmmm.... says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Wow! Let’s go to Ta’HO South and PARTY!!!!!Make a mess, get laid, .Vomit. crash, get up and do it AGAIN! DUDE! I’m not sure why this model is supposed to succeed when the party hardy model is failing everywhere else. Spent time around Aspen, Telluride, Santa Fe….Tahoe has neither the class nor the charm of any of ’em. The natural beauty ….perhaps.

  18. CatLapper says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Tahoe SOUTH…I just threw up a little in my MOUTH….

  19. hmmm.... says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    why not just legalize prostitution in the casino corridor?

  20. Mel says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Tahole South needs more drunk young punks wandering the streets! Party on Garth!

  21. Haddi T. Uptahere says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    All these nattering naybobs of negativity! Most folks on this site complain about the lack of job opportunity in town. The new casino will bring more jobs. No longer will Harrahs/Harveys have a monopoly on good paying jobs for skilled casino workers. The competition for both quality help and customer loyalty should help improve how their management team operates as well.
    What a positive for a stagnate job market!

  22. reloman says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    reza, you may want to check you numbers they are off a little, 500 rooms at 10grand(im betting they spend 20k) would still leave 50 million left for everything else. From all of the negiative comments here it sure sounds like people here would like that nothing be done and just leave it close so that we may have a blighted building in the tourist core(like the tahole was for year)

  23. Paul says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    A Hard Rock Casino on the shore of Lake Tahoe was inevitable once they opened that Hooters on the top of Half Dome. Party on, Tahoe South!

  24. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    most of you folks seem to forget what built this Town.

    you probably all have agency jobs.

    the Hard Rock might just put South Shore back on the map.

    I think it’s the best thing that could happen to the old Ho.

  25. Kits Carson says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Perfect! Yet another source of drunken idiots who trash our town. This town is NOT spring break central NOR do we want it to be. Go back to Vegas!!

  26. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    I would hope that the clientele they will seek are young professionals who likely make an excess of $100,000 plus per year—like successful Bay Area and Silicon Valley types. People who will want to be entertained in an environment where they feel comfortable, don’t need to seek out freebies because they make enough money to buy whatever it is they want and are willing to pay for it, and don’t want to be exposed to seedy degenerates looking for cheap rooms and free drinks. I’d hope that this establishment would take the necessary security precautions to protect their guests and their investment from being trashed by lowlifes and suspect they will make the room rates substantial enough to discourage such.

    It’s good to know that Heavenly/Vail is so supportive of this venture since they also target a younger, higher end clientele with money and some life left in them. You’ve got to go for the younger crowd with money because they’ll be seeking out and paying for entertainment for some time to come, whereas too many of the senior crowd with money is now riding their scooter off into the sunset or to the retirement home.

    I extend my best wishes to brothers Jon and David Park for great success in this endeavor along with my thanks for making this investment in the South Shore.

  27. SeaMoore says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    I don’t understand why everyone here thinks that anyone who stays at Hard Rock is a young pot smoking druggie who’s going to be drinking all night puking in the streets with prostitutes? Lets get rid of the casinos and build more convalescent homes and bingo halls. Really? It’s Stateline and it’s been deteriorating slowly since Arnold opened the floodgate with Indian Gaming. The way I see if Stateline makes a comeback it can only be good for SLT.

  28. hmmm.... says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    SeaMoore…the complaint, as I see it, is that while the rest of the communities around the lake seem focused on marketing themselves towards family types and outdoorsy types, TaHO’ South panders to the ‘drink-party-let loose yer inhibitions’ crowd. Rather than diversifying as times change, TaHO’South doubles down on a failed model.

  29. ljames says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    objecting to the marketing focus of Tahoe as a “party town” is definitely not aligned with just those that object to every change….who to target is a decision about what type of people you want around, what type of town you want to live in and most importantly, what you want people to be doing when they get here. And then that all relates to who those people benefit. I think most of the comments above about who this would benefit and who it would not are pretty spot on. This will inject some dollars into the area, but it does little for the local community, community pride, or truly market what makes Tahoe unique.

  30. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    The City of South Lake Tahoe, CA is placing their focus on outdoor recreation in SLT and has a very proactive Parks and Recreation Commission, and the preparation of a comprehensive Recreation Master Plan is due for release either later this month or in August.

    It’s up to the Stateline, NV casinos to control the type of clientele they want to attract and I would suggest that they need to focus on young adults who are successful and responsible, and they need to raise their prices and stop giving away freebies so they can discourage the deadbeat, reckless drunk, drug user and pothead clientele. MontBleu had some very poor marketing individuals who publicized an “anything goes” attitude which brought in some really undesirable individuals who are out for all the freebies they can get, think it’s fun to destroy property, have little if any money to spend, and have no respect for anyone or anything. Trying to reverse that crappy reputation will take a lot of work and a lot of time, if it’s even possible. This will take courageous management, improved security, and the guts to enforce what they determine to be an acceptable code of conduct.

    The Hyatt in north shore has been very successful and it has been my hope that the south shores casinos would make the effort to replicate them.

  31. sunriser2 says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Any news on the proposed upgrades/expansions at Edgewood? It will be interesting to see how well the young money gets along with the old money.

  32. Know Bears says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    If only they’d stay at the casino. Ugh.

    SLT, it ain’t what it used to me, many long years ago.

  33. Ryan Payne says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Welcome to Tahoe, HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO!!!

    Soo.. What are the odds of building a proper OUTDOOR EVENT CENTER in the back parking lot area???

    Finally, some people are doing things to actually attract more clientele and diversify what Tahoe has to offer!!!

  34. A.B. says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    This is just fantastic news for the entire Tahoe basin. Just look at what this does – it forces the other hotel/casinos to be competitive, get in the game, or leave and let someone else have a shot at it. For all too long, businesses in Tahoe have milked the cow until it died. New blood, new concept, job creation, all great things. I look forwarded to enjoying the new Hard Rock Tahoe. What a great venue this will be!

  35. Rooster says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Why are so many people in this town so negative? NIMBYs everywhere.
    Face it, things change…. In all aspects of life.
    Embrace this as a positive sign of reinvestment in our area.
    To many folks act like they were never young and just seem to like to complain.
    ( I’m 60 by the way.)

  36. DougM says - Posted: July 18, 2014

    Some here make it sound like if you’re over 30, that you have no appetite or use for rock ‘n roll, for cocktails, new restaurants or socializing in a new, fresh, fun environment. So who’s the undesirable “element” here? Hard rock on! Hope they let us geezers in.

  37. rock4tahoe says - Posted: July 19, 2014

    Like others, I have mixed reactions to The “Party” Casino/Hard Rock. Glad to see the Sahara get the overhaul it desperately needed and the associated jobs. Not glad to see more “partying” marketing aimed at Tahoe since we all know what happened this past 4th of July. Well, if the “party” thing doesn’t work then perhaps they will change the focus… again.

  38. michael lee says - Posted: August 7, 2014

    Hard rock cafe? How 1990’s.

  39. Dogula says - Posted: August 7, 2014

    Hope it’s better managed than the Hard Rock Cafe next door. Never been till this week. The visiting family members wanted to eat there. The menu was filthy to start. I should have taken the hint and left.

  40. Parker says - Posted: August 7, 2014

    Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Hotel/Casino are two totally separate companies!

    Haven’t heard an official word yet. But Dogula you may be happy to hear that I’m hearing that the Cafe realizes it can’t compete with the Hotel/Casino. And thus when that opens, don’t expect the Cafe to be around much longer.

  41. Lisa says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    How Exciting! Watching the horizon go down hill for years was hard. I always felt sad when I drove by. This is going to be a great renewal and I hear that manager is a real heavy hitter. I’m embracing this change for sure.

  42. Karleamey says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    Come on folks. South Lake is a tourist, entertainment area and has suffered immensely since the onset of Indian gaming in neighboring states. For those that think this new Hard Rock is a bad idea for “their town”, PLEASE. If you live in South Lake, you had to have known it was the tourist location around the Lake. Move to a more local friendly place around the Lake if you are there to enjoy the local aspects. South Lake is built to entertain the masses that will hopefully come now and put back into the local economy to help build back up that area. It has been a ghost town, run down, low budget area. A 4-star hotel on the main strip is exactly what is needed.

  43. rebel with a cause says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    “Anyone familiar with the Las Vegas Hard Rock knows the property is all about partying – from the Rehab pool to the 4,500-seat Joint music venue.”

    Marrandino knows the value of big name entertainment. I believe he is the one who originally brought the “Eagles” to Lake Tahoe years ago.

    Let’s see if the future has a large indoor venue built on the Nevada side of south Lake Tahoe (Tahoe South for those not familiar with South Lake Tahoe). It will bring in big bucks for the Nevada side, while the South Lake Tahoe City Council spends time making sure the markets do not give away free bags and there is no paid parking in the city.

    The city of SLT should be concentrating on building a large indoor venue to attract year-round business on the California side. There is a city council election this fall. Let’s see which candidates are visionaries.

  44. Dogula says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    Rebel, your idea of the large, indoor venue on the California side? That’s what the Hole in the ground was supposed to be. A convention center/entertainment venue. So much for visionaries on the city council.

  45. rock4tahoe says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    Dog. The City Council beats your vision of “Mad Max.” LOL!

  46. rebel with a cause says - Posted: August 9, 2014

    Dogula, so why didn’t it happen? Big name entertainment year round, conventions, conferences….a large indoor venue makes sense to me.

  47. CJ McCoy says - Posted: August 12, 2014

    Hard Rock should do what they did with the climbing wall at the old Fitzgerald in Reno.

    Have you climbed the 20 story wall there?