Seminole Hard Rock sits on winning location

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TAMPA, Fla. -- If the real estate mantra of "location, location, location" can be applied to the hotel industry, then the $100 million Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino here, which opened last month, is sitting with a pat hand.

The 250-room hotel, owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, sits on a reservation 10 minutes east of this city. But here's where its location comes into play: The property is bordered on the south by Interstate 4, a major east-west artery. I-4, in turn, intersects with Interstate 75, a major north-south route, just east of the reservation.

This strategic junction supports the hotel's drive market and provides access to an array of attractions within a driveable distance.

For example, guests can take I-4 50 miles east to Orlando or follow the Gulf of Mexico coastline to some of Florida's finest beaches.

"You could have a couple of beach days and Disney days, and you don't have to change hotels," said general manager John Fontaine.

Nearby is the Port of Tampa, an embarkation point for Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America and Royal Caribbean, which makes the Seminole Hard Rock a tempting pre- or post-cruise option, Fontaine said.

Tampa also is home to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and the nearby Florida State Fairgrounds, which will soon house a 20,000-seat amphitheater.

The hotel

But for those who like gaming, this is the only place on Florida's west coast that offers a hotel-casino complex.

Built around a 20-year-old, Seminole-owned casino, the complex is made up of a 90,000-square-foot casino within a 210,000-square-foot building; a 12-story hotel tower; and an enclosed parking facility.

A 50-foot-tall guitar greets visitors as they arrive. A multilevel fountain highlights another pair of oversize guitars perched in front of the hotel's main entrance.

Inside, the lobby features photos of such rock music legends as Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison and Pete Townshend.

The lobby, with its circular bar, also provides access to the Body Rock full-service fitness center; the Green Room, a 24-hour dining venue; and the pool deck, which features terraced areas where cabanas with TVs and refrigerators overlook the pool.

For food and entertainment, Floyd's restaurant and nightclub serves lunch and dinner daily and offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sports fans can opt for Big Joe's Sports Bar, where more than a dozen TV monitors telecast worldwide sports events.

Guest rooms include Tivoli stereos and CD players and beds with Egyptian cotton linens and duvets. Bathrooms have a separate tub and shower.

Guests can enjoy shopping throughout the resort, but no one should miss browsing the Hard Rock retail store's wide range of merchandise -- from collectable pins starting at $10.99 to a leather jacket that goes for $750.

The clientele

Through the Hard Rock brand, the hotel is expanding from its 25- to 54-year-old casino demographic to attract a younger audience, according to Fontaine.

"The older demographic has always been a strong part of our customer base," he said. "Now, we have everything from 18- to 80-year-olds."

The younger group is attracted by the glitz of the decor, Fontaine said. There's a 30-foot video tower in the middle of the casino with 35 video screens around it.

The bar features "flare bartenders," who are trained not only in mixing drinks but also in things like juggling.

The rates

In April and May, the published rates on standard deluxe rooms are $140 to $200, with luxury rooms ranging from $175 to $235. From June through September, the price drops to around $110 to $200 for both categories. From October through Christmas, the price range is about $140 to $235. Prices are per person, double.

For more information or reservations, call (888) 80-HOTEL or visit www.hardrock.com.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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