Hard Rock Hoping Second Time Is The Charm - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hard Rock Hoping Second Time Is The Charm

There's a sense of déjà vu inside the Hard Rock Biloxi. Just like in August, 2005, the resort is oh so close to opening. On the eve of what was supposed to be its initial debut, Katrina walloped the resort. It never opened. That's where Hard Rock employees hope the déjà vu ends.

On the Hard Rock Live stage, a security officer grabbed a microphone and got fellow employees fired up.

"I want to hear how ya'll sound," he yelled. And the crowd cheered. This is all part of Hard Rock's daily sound check, the company's way of making sure the spirit of rock is in the building.

Every morning, Hard Rock's new staff meets in the resort's theater to dance a little, and chant a lot. At this sound check, the security guard barked, "Let me hear you." and the group began chanting Hard Rock.

During sound check, the company motto comes to life. "Spread the spirit of rock and roll," everybody yelled.

As many as 80 percent of the people on Hard Rock's payroll were at the resort during pre-opening number one. Because of Katrina, they never got to welcome gamblers into their property. Crystal Jones had a Hard Rock job before and after the storm.

"There was never an option not for me to come back," the Vancleave woman said. "I was going to bang down the door and get in if they didn't let me come back."

In Hard Rock's first life, the casino floated on barges. But the barges ended up looking like accordians when Katrina slammed into them just two days before Hard Rock's opening. Now, the casino sits on pilings. And there's actually parking underneath the one story casino.

"It is a little different," admitted Hard Rock President Joe Billhimer. "But we're excited. And we're going to make it this time."

Billhimer's announced plan is to open Hard Rock Biloxi on July 5. The group 3 Doors Down will perform that night.

"For me, it's just great to be part of the revitalization of the coast right now," said Billhimer. "I think we're just another great story of a lot of things going on right now on the coast. And we're glad to be part of it."

With the property nearly finished, and 1,500 employees chomping at the bit to finally put Hard Rock on the map, don't be surprised if Billhimer's resort makes its debut a couple of days early.

"I'm pumped. I'm ready to open the doors," Jones said. "If I have to rip them down, they're coming down, people are coming in. We're going to open this time without fail."

When that day comes, Joe Billhimer will have a bigger smile on his face than the one he's wearing right now.

"I'm excited. Thrilled. Ready to go," he said.

Hard Rock initially spent $200 million to build its Biloxi resort. Billhimer said the reconstruction costs probably added another $150 million to that total.

By Brad Kessie

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