Getting lucky in Tampa

Billboards posted up all over the Tampa Bay area, radio advertisements played on all the local stations and even television commercials have been donning the logo “Are you ready to play?”

At the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, they are ready to play.

The hotel and casino was born into thought and put into action between the Hard Rock Café International and the Seminole tribe of Florida. March 11 the doors were opened to more than 10,000 guests as a Seminole elder performing the Hard Rock tradition of smashing a guitar inaugurated the facility.

Not even seven miles from the USF campus, the hotel and casino can be recognized from the lanes of I-4 by the 50-foot Hard Rock guitar that adorns the entrance of the hotel on Orient Road. The casino itself takes up approximately 90,000 square feet, with an additional 12 stories of art deco-inspired hotel rooms to accommodate the patrons. The establishment offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space, an 8,000 square foot ballroom, a sports bar and a restaurant and nightclub. The grand ballroom also hosts concerts, including the Hootie and the Blowfish performance at the opening of the casino.

Seminole tribe representatives expect the hotel to generate about $300 million annually in revenue, and already it has created more than 2,000 jobs, according to The Tampa Tribune.

Along with the Hard Rock name came priceless rock n’ roll memorabilia such as a cape signed by Grace Slick, lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, and a vest Jimi Hendrix traded to a member of the women’s soul group the Shirelles for a guitar. One of Sammy Hagar’s guitars and one of Bob Dylan’s harmonicas dazzle star-struck visitors in the casino lobby.

For students who need a break from the college life, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino offers just that. With a Las Vegas-style casino that is open 24 hours year-round, students can visit the casino and bars at any time — there’s no last call because it is Seminole property. There are over 1,850 gaming machines in the casino, which includes Double Diamond, Red, White & Blue, Double Wild Cherry and Five Times Pay. The casino offers 32 tables of live-action poker as well. There is also a center bar that is featured within the casino with a multi-media entertainment extravaganza, appropriately titled the Tower of Power.

“It is extraordinary how big the casino is,” said Christian Rodriguez, a worker who helped lay carpet in the casino.

For those students who feel the need for a complete weekend getaway, they can stay in one of the 250 luxury guest rooms and suites. A room for two adults costs $170 a night. A multi-room suite can cost up to $1,600 a night. Along with those accommodations comes access to a tropical pool with cascading fountains, a fitness center and a food marketplace.

Brad Cole, a USF student, said he is happy to have more entertainment options close to home.

“My friends and I would always go to Orlando before to get away for the weekend. Now, it’s nice to know that we can go just down the road and be in this whole different world of entertainment.”

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino tries to cater to a wide variety of tastes. For the sports fan, Big Joe’s Sports Bar features over a dozen giant televisions that broadcast sporting events from around the globe. The sports bar also features a huge electronic sports ticker.

For those in search of elegant dining and entertainment, the hotel and casino serves up Floyd’s Restaurant and Bar. Floyd’s serves hip fine dining in a casually elegant environment. The hotel and casino does not yet feature a Hard Rock restaurant. For after-hours enjoyment, visitors of the hotel can also attend the nightclub, which plays live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night.

“I went to the casino before the hotel opened for business, and I knew that this was a place that would get me through the rest of my college career,” said Todd Cruz, a USF student.