Hard Rock breaks ground on new Rockford casino

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:01 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s official! City leaders and celebrities gathered Wednesday afternoon at the site of the new Hard Rock Rockford casino and hotel for a groundbreaking ceremony. The new casino will be located on the corner of East State Street and Lyford Rd, just off I-90.

Nearly a year after opening the temporary Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act, Hard Rock will start work on the permanent casino.

“It’s a $300 plus million project- more than 180 thousand square feet. You have a casino, table games, slots, multiple restaurants, hard rock live venue,” said Hard Rock Casino Rockford President Geno Iafrate.

Earlier this month, the Illinois Gaming Board approved foundation and utilities work to begin at the former site of the Clock Tower Resort. Iafrate predicts jobs in the area to rise exponentially, bringing more than 2000 jobs to the area in both the construction and casino job sectors. This makes area leaders like Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara very happy.

“Just last week hard rock approved a more than 3 dollar increase in the minimum wage, voluntarily for all of their non-tipped employees. It shows that they’re not only a wonderful community partner, they’re really working to be one of the best employees in town,” he told 23 News.

Now, it’s all green lights for the project that Mayor Tom McNamara says will not only bring the city revenue but revenue for businesses around the casino. Something RACVB President John Groh agrees.

“Obviously through the whole process, it will be significant. Hundreds of thousands of people coming into the area every year, just because of the casino,” he said.

No word yet on when the build is expected to be finished, but Iafrate says the hope is Winter of 2023. There will be seven thousand loads trucked in from a quarry for the project. 30 Semi-trucks will be used daily, with over 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel used on the project between now and Christmas. That’s the equivalent of filling your car up with gas 4000 times. Hard Rock also plans on building a 250-room hotel, but Iafrate says that will be pushed back to phase 2.

“But we really discovered early on that the inflationary impacts that really everyone is dealing with right now make financing the hotel in phase one a virtual impossibility, so we more than likely will open phase one without a hotel,” Iafrate said.

A portion of the revenue from both the temporary and permanent casino will go to the Northern Illinois University Rockford Promise Scholarship Program. It’s dedicated to offering free college tuition to students in Rockford’s Public Schools.