International edition
May 22, 2019

Mark Birtha, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento

"Hard Rock is focusing on expanding the regional and West Coast presence of the brand"

"I think you’re going to find a Vegas-quality experience but in peoples’ backyards right here in the local region," president of the property Mark Birtha assured.
United States | 05/16/2019

Ahead of the upcoming opening of the chain’s new property, the future president of Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain told Yogonet their main goal is to be part of a 900-acre sports and entertainment zone in the area that will hopefully become a regional powerhouse and destination experience on the West Coast of the United States.

"We’re opening the property in fall of 2019," Mark Birtha, president of Hard Rock’s new property confirmed. This is a landmark property for the company as it will be the first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that will be licensed and managed on the west coast after their recent acquisition of Hard Rock’s brand rights west of the Mississippi about two and half years ago.

Could you provide details on the new property in terms of space, location, gaming offering and amenities it will include? What innovations, differences, and similarities could we expect as compared to other Hard Rock resorts?

We’re opening the property this fall of 2019, and it will include a 170-key hotel with a number of suites and pool-terrace rooms, along with ten food & beverage venues including a steakhouse and a buffet. There will also be more than 1800 gaming positions both slot and table games, along with VIP high-limit games. There will be a 10,000 square foot meetings center, a Rock Shop retail store, a Body Rock fitness facility, a pool and other events spaces. Clearly, the building will have all the bells and whistles to make it a full-fledged integrated destination resort. Typically, each Hard Rock property has its own character and differences – not only the markets they are in but also the experiences and products that they deliver — which are very Hard Rock-branded but also very focused on the markets that the property exists in, whether by color palate or by design. We will bring in local partners and vendors in the areas such as food and wine. Those are some of the clear differentiators amongst the Hard Rock properties. And of course, our memorabilia is a signature statement of each of our Hard Rock properties. A lot of our memorabilia at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain will be from artists that reflect the local market as well those that are icons in the industry.

What are the advantages of the property’s location? How did the company decide to choose that specific area? What will it represent for the global business of Hard Rock?

One of the advantages of the property’s location is that we are easily accessible from all locations – primarily with access off of highways 70 and 65. We are only about 30 minutes away from the Sacramento National Airport and about 35 minutes away from downtown Sacramento. This will without question be a very easy location to get to. We will have complimentary self-parking, along with valet parking. The building will have multiple entrances, so it will also be easily accessible. It is also located right next to the Toyota Amphitheatre, which hosts more than a dozen large concerts in their 18,000 seat-venue every summer. At the same time, what this will represent for the global business of Hard Rock International is that this will be the first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that will be licensed and managed on the west coast after our recent acquisition of Hard Rock’s brand rights west of the Mississippi about two and half years ago. So, not only is this a landmark property for Hard Rock International but more importantly, it’s the beginning of a relationship between the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe, which is the ownership here in Northern California of the property, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It’s the first east coast-west coast alignment and partnership between two significant Native American entities. They have a shared vision given they have many shared stories and backgrounds and a focus on building a much larger enterprise and property as part of this 900-acre “sports and entertainment zone” in the area. We hope to not only be a catalyst for that growth but more importantly a foundation piece for future growth between the two tribal entities. It’s a pretty big deal on many levels.

What can you tell us about the new leadership team? What are your expectations for Hard Rock Sacramento in terms of business development and what strategies have you planned for your team to execute in order to attract patrons and provide high-quality services?

We have a fantastic team put together. Our executive team alone has close to 200 years of experience in the gaming industry.  They’ve all done openings and worked in competitive markets, whether it’s a destination or local or regional location. Some of them have been with the brand for many years at many properties, while others are relatively new to the Hard Rock brand but are coming from some of the best casino operations in the country. We are putting together a very robust team, not only at the management level but also at the hourly level.  A group of people who are really passionate about the brand and about delivering authentic experiences that rock.  At the same time, they are really invested in the community and philanthropy – which so core to the DNA of Hard Rock. Those are just some of the high-level things that differentiate our leadership and operations team, as we’re looking to hire 1,200 people over the remainder of this year. We are excited to welcome people from the local and regional areas as well as from across the world who want to experience the Hard Rock brand. Between Tahoe, Reno and the entire Bay area, this Northern California location is well-suited for us to bring in new customers to grow the marketplace and bring more visitation not only to our site but to all of the local vendors and partners here. It allows us to be very flexible in our strategy. We are going to focus on catering to a local’s market and a regional market, but then also be a destination resort that’s focused on not only delivering a gaming experience but also a hotel resort experience. So, I think there’s a lot of aspects of what we’re putting together here that will differentiate us, raise the bar and bring greater visibility to the entire region in terms of hospitality and gaming in the business that we’re in.

Sports betting is not legal in California yet, but as some states did recently, sports wagering regulations could be enacted in the state any time soon. Have you got any plans to include a sportsbook within the property if that moment comes? If so, could you provide details on what it would be like and how it will be operated?

We are absolutely interested in having that amenity available in the future here — sports betting and internet gaming. People in this region without question love sports. There’s the Sacramento Kings right down the street, and on the regional level there is the Golden State Warriors, the 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, the San Jose Sharks NHL hockey team, the Oakland A’s and the Giants in San Francisco and the River Cats here locally for baseball. Sports are huge here and having the opportunity to offer sports betting at the property would be something we believe to be a great amenity that we know would allow us to bring in additional guests and offer an even more comprehensive list of bells and whistles to attract clientele. We would operate it in-house and we’re already rolling this out as a part of Hard Rock with sportsbook concepts in places like Atlantic City and Biloxi, so we have a lot of experience in the space. We believe that having that amenity here in Northern California create a strong partnership with the local sports environment and a great product for our clientele here at the property.

Will you be holding an opening ceremony? If so, what have you planned for the occasion?

We will absolutely hold an opening ceremony. If anything, Hard Rock is known for phenomenal grand opening ceremony events — all the way from the guitar smash, which is core to the Hard Rock experience that helps bring the property to life, to having celebrities and VIPs and all types of functions out at the property during the opening. We’re hoping to do a big kick off concert – something that will be very unique in the market and allow us to really demonstrate the power and flavor of Hard Rock; more importantly, celebrate 20 years of Enterprise Rancheria’s vision of bringing this property to life here in the Yuba Sutter community in the greater Sacramento region. It’s more about honoring and celebrating that hard work, disciple and vision to ensure that not only do our guests have a great experience, our employees are proud and excited to be part of the Hard Rock brand and this property in Sacramento, but also for the close to 1,000 Tribal Members in the Enterprise Rancheria to see this vision come to life and really celebrate all that we’ve put into the building to truly create a destination experience.

In terms of competition in the state, Morongo Casino California recently announced an expansion and Harrah's Northern California casino is opening this month. Bearing that in mind, what will be Hard Rock Sacramento’s distinctive resources and target audiences in the short and long term?

In terms of competition in the state, there are other properties that are expanding and coming into the market, but we each have distinctive resources and target audiences. We really believe there’s room for growth and there’s still a need for additional supply in the marketplace – whether it’s Northern California where we are located or Southern California, there’s still very strong performance, very high demand, and high utilization. We want to focus on offering amenities, marketing and loyalty programs that cater to the local and regional customer while also offering a branded experience that attracts people in the greater Bay area and beyond to come and spend a weekend or vacation or host a meeting or conference or special event at our property. We think there’s room for additional growth by focusing on expanding the regional and West Coast presence of our brand and the amenities that we offer. I think you’re going to find a Vegas-quality experience but in peoples’ backyards right here in the local region. Then with our focus on being a regional and national destination, our goal is to be part of a 900 acre sports and entertainment zone which really lays the groundwork for what will be the next five to ten to twenty years of development and a very long-term master plan that will hopefully become a regional powerhouse and destination experience on the West Coast of the United States. There’s more to come on that as first there was the amphitheater and now with us as the second catalyst – I think you’ll see more development out here not only in gaming but in all hospitality and amenities that we know will drive the complete experience and differentiated landmark here in this region of the country.

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