By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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The casino plans to host a private groundbreaking ceremony next Wednesday at the site as it begins moving earth in preparation to build its 180,000-square-foot facility. The groundbreaking will be attended by local business and political leaders and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen.
“Our opening act in Rockford has been fantastic, but I know the entire Rockford community is just as excited as we are for the main show,” Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International, said in a news release. “From the very start, Rockford’s energy has surpassed expectations and it’s no secret they are really ready to rock. Building on that momentum and with the incredible support from the Illinois Gaming Board and the Rockford community, we’re ready to begin the next chapter.”
Earlier this month, the Illinois Gaming Board gave its OK for Hard Rock to start preliminary construction such as grading and storm sewer work. There is still an additional approval needed on the remainder of the construction process.
The start of construction comes more than 10 months after Hard Rock welcomed its first customers to Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act, the name for the temporary casino at 610 N. Bell School Road that will operate until the full resort opens. State gaming regulations allow for the temporary facility to operate for two years before the full casino opens. Hard Rock officials have said they plan to meet that timeline, although there are stipulations in the law that allow for an extension.
The temporary casino has brought in more than $43.5 million in gross revenue in its first 10 months of operation from November through August, according to data from the Illinois Gaming Board. It’s also generated more than $2.5 million in local tax revenue. The city of Rockford has dedicated the first $1.5 million of that to Rockford Promise, which offers full-tuition, four-year scholarships to qualified Rockford Public Schools graduates to attend Northern Illinois University.
The city has not yet determined how additional revenue will be used, Mayor Tom McNamara said.