BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s a big name with worldwide recognition and it may be coming to Kern County. Plans for a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are steps closer to completion.
The huge casino, concert and hotel complex proposed for a 300-acre site 14 miles south of downtown Bakersfield will be operated by the Tejon Indian Tribe and Hard Rock International company, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, according to an announcement Tuesday morning.
The project has been in the works for years, but Tuesday’s announcement that the blue chip brand of Hard Rock will operate the facility brings new prestige to the proposal.
The proposed hotel-casino project, sandwiched between the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 split, is huge. The casino would be as big as a Costco store. The hotel would have 400 rooms, making it the largest in Kern County. The facility would also include a spa and fitness center, resort style pool, 13 restaurants and bars, the largest convention space in Kern County and entertainment venue.
It would bring 2,000 permanent jobs to Kern County.
County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said the following about the casino:
“This is a tremendous win for the County and our residents. It’s an incredible opportunity anytime you can add 3,000 jobs, millions into the local economy, and diversity to our economic profile. We’re excited to work with them through the planning process and create a long-term partnership.”
The plan still has a long calendar of regulatory and environmental hurdles to clear. Opening of the complex could be years away.
“The Tejon Indian Tribe has a proud history in Kern County,” said Octavio Escobedo, Tejon Tribe chairman. “We welcome this partnership with Hard Rock International, one of the world’s most widely recognized brands, as an important step for our Tribe and know that this project will be a great economic driver.”
The idea for this project started more than a decade ago. Tejon Tribal chairwoman Kathryn Montes-Morgan told 17 News she submitted paperwork to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2006 to regain federal recognition of her tribe. Paperwork included a copy of the treaty signed between the federal government and the tribe in 1851. The tribe was mistakenly left off the list in 1967, until they were re-added in 2012.
“This federal recognition guarantees the tribe the right to pursue any kind of economic development to further take care of our people,” Montes-Morgan told 17 News in 2012.
A Las Vegas businessman spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the tribe gain federal recognition, with his sights set on a casino in Kern County.
Last July, Las Vegas-based SCCR Tejon LLC purchased 306 acres of land for more than $10 million. 52 acres will be devoted to the hotel and casino, while 22 acres will be designated for an RV park. The remainder of the land will be designated for other tribal purposes including a health facility and housing.
The project has some local groups concerned. In the scoping report, more than a hundred letters of opposition express the negative impacts the project could have on the environment and public safety. In Sept. 2015, during the Scoping Report Meeting, which allows people to voice their opinion on the project, some said the project would negatively impact the already poor air quality in the Central Valley, with more cars driving to the hotel and casino. Others expressed their concern over the possibility of an increase in crime, including drug trafficking and gang affiliation.
The project is expected to bring 1,000 construction jobs and over 2,000 permanent jobs once completed with a payroll of $59 million annually. County sources say the project will bring $600 million to Kern County if the project is approved.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a rough draft of the Environmental Impact Statement and a formal date for public comment are set for later this year. There’s no timeline on when the project is set to begin.