Hard Rock International, the global hospitality company known for its rock 'n' roll-themed restaurants, has agreed to develop and manage a $600 million hotel and casino the Tejon Indian Tribe has proposed on farmland just west of Highway 99 half an hour south of Bakersfield.
Assuming the tribe receives federal approval after an environmental review process expected to take at least a year, the project will be built on 52 acres of a 306-acre parcel the tribe owns northwest of South Sabodan and Wild Flower streets in Mettler.
Project details unveiled June 4 indicate the casino would be located next to a 22-acre RV park on what is now a mostly vacant parcel owned by the tribe. The property would also become home to administrative offices, a health-care facility and housing.
A news release by Hard Rock and the tribe said there will be a total of 13 restaurants, a live entertainment venue, a spa and fitness facility and "the largest conference and meeting space in Kern County." Plans previously disclosed by the tribe indicate the casino will measure 165,500 square feet and include a 400-room hotel.
Hard Rock owns, operates and franchises entertainment and gambling-related businesses in 73 countries. Owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, it has 184 cafes, 237 Rock Shop stores, 28 hotels and 11 casinos.
"Hard Rock International is excited to partner with the Tejon Indian Tribe, assisting in the achievement of (its) long-term goals," Hard Rock Chairman and CEO Jim Allen said in the release.
Tejon Tribe Chairman Octavio Escobedo said in the same release the project will bring good-paying jobs that will lead to better health care, education and economic independence for the tribe's 972 members.
"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," he said in the release.
The development is sure to bring economic benefits to Kern County, attracting new money to the local economy as people throughout the state come to the casino, Richard Chapman, CEO of Kern Economic Development Corp. said in the release.
While the project's convention and and events facilities are sure to compete with the Rabobank Arena, Theater and Convention Center in downtown Bakersfield, two city officials said it's too early to gauge what impact the Hard Rock might have on the city-owned venue.
The proposal won a resounding welcome from Tejon Ranch Co., the Lebec-based agribusiness and real estate development company with an ownership stake in a commerce center and shopping outlets a few miles south of the proposed casino site.
"We believe such an addition to Kern County would have a very positive economic impact," Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller said by email, "and given its proximity to the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center and the Outlets at Tejon, we expect it will significantly benefit all the retail offerings located there."
Local government officials will probably have little say in what gets built there. Although Kern's Planning and Natural Resources Department has been classified as a "cooperating agency" that will contribute to the federal review, the tribe's status as a sovereign entity — it was formally recognized in 2012 — precludes any approval role the county Board of Supervisors would normally have.
That doesn't mean the tribe will get free services from the county. County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said the tribe and its partners will have to pay their fair share under an agreement expected to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors before the federal government takes final action on the environmental review.