Hard Rock Casino Land In Rockford Sold For $100 Million

Written By T.J. McBride on September 5, 2023
The land under Hard Rock Casino in Rockford has been sold for $100M.

There is a new owner of the land under what will be Hard Rock Casino in Rockford when construction is completed.

The land has been acquired by Gaming Leisure Properties Inc. (GLPI) for $100 million. GLPI purchased the land from an affiliate of 815 Entertainment, which will own and operate the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It currently operates the nearby temporary casino.

The temporary Hard Rock has already put a nice dent into the Illinois casino gambling market. In July, Hard Rock had over $6 million in adjusted gross revenue (AGR), which ranked it ninth out of the 14 casinos in Illinois. That’s despite having the second-smallest gaming floor and only recently beginning to fill out its table game offerings.

Details of the new 99-year lease and sale of the land

Illinois online casinos are still illegal, but that could change as soon as next year. Legislation has a good chance of passing in the next session of the Illinois Legislature.

With the sale of the grounds to GLPI, the immediate next step was to lock in a new lease agreement with 815 Entertainment. The annual rent that Hard Rock operators will pay is $8 million. That amount will rise 2% each year beginning on the first anniversary of the lease. The lease lasts 99 years. In addition to the basics of the lease agreement, GLPI will also provide up to $150 million in development funding through a senior secured delayed draw term loan.

Chief Operating Officer for Hard Rock International Jon Lucas spoke about his excitement for the new partnership.

“Hard Rock’s incredible financial strength and development trajectory is only made stronger with great partners like GLPI and 815 Entertainment. We are really looking forward to opening another world-class entertainment property with Hard Rock Casino Rockford.”

Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter Carlino commented on the partnership as well.

“The Hard Rock brand is world renown and will support and solidify the new casino’s position as a tourist destination and entertainment venue. Hard Rock is the property manager and an equity investor in 815 Entertainment, bringing its world-class management team to the project. The overall transaction structure makes $250 million available to 815 Entertainment to invest in the project and reflects GLPI’s creativity in crafting a comprehensive construction financing solution. We look forward to our relationship with 815 Entertainment.”

Hard Rock Casino Rockford hopes to open permanent venue next year

Currently, the expectation for the completion of the Hard Rock Casino Rockford is September 2024. When completed, the hotel casino will have a swath of high-end offerings.

  • Complex will span approximately 177,000 square feet, with 60,000 square feet dedicated to a gaming floor.
  • Casino will start with 1,250 slot machines and build from there.
  • Casino will offer 50 table games.
  • There will be a retail sportsbook with online offerings.
  • A six-table poker room is part of the plans.
  • There will be a Hard Rock Café.
  • Hard Rock Live entertainment venue will sport 1,600 seats.
  • Multiple dining options will be available, including a steakhouse and Asian restaurant.
  • Complex will include a 250-room hotel that will be the largest in the Rockford area.

Complex will honor Rockford’s own Cheap Trick

The Hard Rock will also honor musical greats from the area, including Cheap Trick.

In the front of the Hard Rock, a 90-foot-tall replica of guitarist Rick Nielsen’s famous Hamer standardbred checkerboard guitar will be built. Inside the sportsbook and above the stage, the words of the song title, “I Want You to Want Me,” will be on display.

At the entrance to the Hard Rock Center Bar, another famous Nielsen guitar will be displayed: his Hamer five-neck model which, as the name implies, has five necks instead of the typical single-neck design.

Entire casino resort project expected to cost $358 million

The construction of the permanent hotel and casino is expected to cost $358 million, including the temporary facility. So far, $120 million has been poured into the project.

In mid-July, the project hit an important milestone when the final steel beam for the outer structure was installed. Guests who were invited to the event all signed the final steel beam before Ringland Johnson Construction put it in place.

According to the Rockford Register Star, Hard Rock International Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas spoke on the milestone and its importance during the event.

“This is a great milestone, but it is only one more stepping stone to get us to the finish line. I know when you look behind me and see this building, it really brings things to reality. Obviously, we are going to build a permanent facility, and we are going to bring Hard Rock here to Rockford. This is just another step along the way.”

Photo by Shutterstock
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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He covers the gaming landscape across multiple states in addition to his main beat covering the NBA's Denver Nuggets. His NBA work can be found at several major media outlets including ESPN, FiveThirtyEight and Bleacher Report.

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