Hard Rock Resort Comes to Biloxi

Fri March 05, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle

Roy Anderson Corp. crews are constructing a $235 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, the first new casino in South Mississippi since 1999.

Plans call for the Hard Rock to be a 388,000-sq.-ft. (36,046 sq m) facility featuring a casino with 1,500 slot machines and 50 game tables. A 1,600-space parking garage also will be constructed. The project should take approximately 18 months.

The resort will include a 306-room hotel, a Hard Rock nightclub, an 85,000-sq.-ft. (7,897 sq m) casino barge with 48,500 ft. (14,783 m) of gaming space and a music theme.

Located on 8.5 acres (3.4 ha) of land adjoining the water, the resort will be on the site of the old Gold Shore Casino, east of the Beau Rivage, the last casino built on the Gulf Coast.

Groundbreaking was held at the site Feb. 10 and construction crews immediately began work.

Roy Anderson III, of Gulfport, MS, is the general contractor. His company will employ subcontractors in electrical, mechanical and marine work.

Tom Gonzalez, project superintendent of Hard Rock, said demolition took several weeks at the construction site. There were some old concrete pads and an old marine structure left by a former casino.

“We’re having to go in and tear out all remaining foundations to make accommodations. This casino will be a little smaller than the Beau Rivage,” he said.

According to Gonzalez, the toughest challenge will be constructing the casino itself. “That’s due to the way the construction part is. We’ll be working over water. The majority of the casino is part of the barge,” said Gonzalez.

In Mississippi, unless they are owned by Indians, casinos can not be built on land –– all are constructed on barges.

Gonzalez said auger cast pilings will be used for the foundation. The pilings offer a deep foundation system involving cast-in place piles that are primarily supported by friction between the side of the pile and the surrounding soil.

The project will require an assortment of heavy equipment including several cranes, dozers and trackhoes. Crews are using two Peiner SK415 tower cranes and a Link-Belt crawler crane. The crawler crane will be set on the barge over water.

The Biloxi Hard Rock will have finishes different than the Las Vegas Hard Rock and will have its own architectural features. The building’s exterior will have a stucco finish.

A 120-ft. (36.6 m) high guitar will be located at the front entrance of the hotel.

“I think we got the largest sign variance in city history,” said Joe Billhimer, who left his job as general manager of Grand Casino Gulfport last summer to become president and chief operating officer of Premier Entertainment. He recently was recognized as an outstanding community and business leader for his commitment to improving South Mississippi and its quality of life.

Premier Entertainment, headquartered in Biloxi, will own and operate the Hard Rock, which will be the fourth Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in the United States. In addition to the Hard Rock resort in Las Vegas, there are two Hard Rock Indian casinos in Florida.

“We think this is the best casino site in Mississippi,” said Anderson.

The Hard Rock was designed by Paul Steelman, who also designed the Beau Rivage.

“This has been in the making for some years,” said Billhimer about the Hard Rock. He said Anderson and others like Gregg Giuffria, one of the principal owners, helped accelerate the project. Guiffria ia a Coast native and semi-retired rock musician.

Roy Anderson Corp. has constructed a number of casinos in the state, including nine of 12 casinos currently on the coast.

“The project was handled in the professional manner of a company who knew what to do and when to do it. Those of us involved with Bally’s Casino during the construction phase in Tunica are pleased to recommend Roy Anderson Corp. in handling all matters in a professional manner with utmost integrity,” said Joseph Lipari, vice president of construction and development, Bally’s Casino.

Roy Anderson Corp. was founded in 1955. In addition to its Gulfport headquarters, the company has offices in Jackson, MS, and Dallas. The company has completed more than 1,200 projects in the United States.