By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Truck after truck has been pouring into the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort construction site for months. About 50-70 daily, each carrying thousands of pounds of steel beams, concrete and other building materials.
The Harrah’s Casino’s $250 million construction project is well under way.
The first focus has been the parking garage, which is the only piece of the project that looks significant at this point. Zeke Cooper, the director of business development for Dreamcatcher Hotels, says that the garage is about 75 percent erected, and officials say that it is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Once it is finished, it will hold over 2,000 spaces across six levels of parking.
Work has also begun on the other major buildings for this project as well. These include a hotel tower and a conference center. These are primarily at the preparation stage, however. Cooper says that they plan to begin more groundwork within the next few months.
The hotel will host 725 rooms, including 70 suites. It will offer plenty of amenities, the big-ticket items being a fitness center and terrace pool. This hotel is going to be a full package: it will have a lobby bar, coffee and pastry bar, and a three-meal restaurant.
The conference center is going to have two levels and will hold 100,000 square feet of conference space. Harrah’s is currently in the leasing process for the retail space in this project, as well. They are looking to land a few major names, known as ‘anchors’, and that will help to fill the retail list. It will be approximately 160,000 square feet of leasable space, which translates to about 50 individual spaces.
The new conference center will be attached to the primary casino building via a skybridge.
More work will be focused on these other spaces later this summer, and more attention will be turned once the garage is completed. There is plenty of work to be done, but according to Harrah’s the entirety of the construction is expected to be done by early 2021.
Harrah’s says that there can be 400-500 workers onsite at different points throughout construction with 100-150 of those full-time workers being members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. There are two general contractors working on this job including Whiting-Turner and Finfrock and approximately 30 subcontractors involved on the site.
The project is working on a huge scale, and it is currently within the $250 million budget. Harrah’s says the addition is forecasted to provide $20 million in distribution to the Tribe during the first full year of operation.
Visually, this addition will make the casino look considerably bigger. It is building on about 20 acres of land, bringing the total constructed land to 58 acres.