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GARY — Visitors to the Hard Rock Casino Gary, when it opens on or after Dec. 31, 2020, will pass by a huge, neon-lit guitar at the main entrance to the first land-based casino in Northwest Indiana.

From there they'll follow a marble walkway through the center of the casino, with numerous table games and thousands of slot machines on each side, surrounded by a variety of bars and restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe, as well as a 2,000-seat Hard Rock Live music performance venue.

Within three years, visitors also will be able to walk through the casino to a connected, 10-story Hard Rock Hotel, or head back to their vehicles parked in a casino-linked garage that will replace the abundant surface parking at the casino site on 29th Avenue and the Burr Street access ramp to the Borman Expressway.

Preliminary renderings of the new Gary casino, presented Tuesday by Spectacle Entertainment officials at a meeting of the Gary Common Council's Planning Committee, show the 225,000-square foot facility will be like nothing else in the Region.

For example, everything will be on one level. So unlike the Majestic Star casino boats it is replacing, Hard Rock Casino gamblers won't have to climb stairs or take an escalator to play a different slot machine or try their hand at baccarat after winning at the blackjack tables.

There also will be no lingering boat-related design complications as sometimes is seen at the Hammond Horseshoe and Michigan City Blue Chip casinos, where prior state fees for casino floor access led to the placement of some amenities far away from the tables and slots. 

At the Hard Rock, the 150-seat steakhouse will be adjacent to the high-limit slots, there will be a 20-seat sports bar directly connected to the sports book, and a 300-seat buffet calling to hungry gamblers from the northeast corner of the casino floor, according to the renderings.

The style of all of which will be "top of the line," said Rich Ziegler, Spectacle vice president of development. "First quality all the way."

The focus on superior design also extends to the exterior of the facility. In addition to welcoming quotes by musicians at the main entrance, Ziegler said the back side of the casino facing the expressway largely will mirror the front side facing a rebuilt 29th Street to entice travelers to get off the highway and visit the casino.

"The presentation we make to the interstate is very important to us," Ziegler said. "The architects and the interior designers have done an outstanding job, and we're very excited."

Planning committee members had few questions for the Spectacle team.

They appeared to unanimously support the $400 million project after John Keeler, Spectacle vice president and general counsel, reiterated his company's commitment to continue employing the roughly 900 people currently working at the Majestic Star, and to give hiring priority to Gary residents for the approximately 900 additional jobs that will be created at the Hard Rock Casino.

The full Gary Common Council is due to vote Aug. 20 on authorizing the rezoning of the casino site and a resolution endorsing the relocation of Gary's casinos from Lake Michigan to the land-based site, in accordance with the requirements of a state law enacted in May, House Enrolled Act 1015.

If approved, as expected, the Indiana Gaming Commission could give final approval for the relocation on Aug. 28, at which time Spectacle must pay the first of five $4 million installments of a state-mandated casino move fee and give up the second Gary casino license for reuse in Terre Haute.

Keeler said Spectacle then will begin clearing its largely vacant 30-acre casino site as soon as possible, with construction of the new casino beginning still this year in the hope of opening in time to celebrate on New Year's Eve next year.

"That's an ambitious goal, and a lot of it depends on the weather and a lot of factors beyond our control," Keeler said. "But that's our goal."

This article originally ran on nwitimes.com.

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