Bristol, VA

Will Abandoned Mall Be Demolished? Developers Ready to Start on Bristol Casino

John M. Dabbs

We may see progress in January of next year at the former Bristol Mall, just over a year since voters approved a casino in Bristol, Virginia.

Demolition to begin soon

City officials approved changes to the former mall property on Gate City Highway. The Bristol Casino Group reports they have a demolition plan in place. The Bristol Herald Courier reports City Manager, Randy Eads, confirmed the statement. The plan is on file and met the approval process for the city.

The demolition will begin development, by allowing developers to size-up the site. Once evaluated, the builders and designers can complete designs for the temporary casino build.

New beginnings

Construction will be close to $400 million for the casino resort. The realized full-scale operation is expected to employ more than a thousand people. Initial operations expect greater than one thousand slot machines, and more than fifty gaming tables. Full operations will at least double those numbers.

The hotel will start with 300 rooms with plenty of room for expansion, along with seven restaurants. We can expect no less than four bars and live performance venues with seating for three thousand. The outdoor entertainment venue is expected to seat 20,000. These will pair nicely with the other retail space and attractions planned.

Regulations

The process has been steady, with most everyone expecting delays due to the Lottery Board's requirements. All vendors and operators will need to pass an extensive criminal background check.

Developers Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy planned to establish a temporary gaming facility. This is still the plan, but is on hold until the Lottery Board approves their gaming license. The Lottery Board is not expected to aprove any casino licenses until 2022. It will provide a first step to get everyone working on processes while the rest of the facilty is underway.

Lottery officials have approved the first five casino vendor applications. These work for Hard Rock Bristol, LLC. These include Conspectus Inc from New Jersey (a consulting firm), and New York City based DeSimone Consulting Engineering. DeSimone will provide structural engineering, consulting, forensic services, and risk management. We hope the Bristol Casino will not suffer from the same problems experienced nearby at the Tenneva Hotel build on State Street in Bristol, Tennessee. They are still awaiting reports and have yet to resume construction after the center portion collapsed.

DeSimone has worked on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Gary, Indiana, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel & Casino in Florida.

Lottery Board

At the Lottery Board’s meeting last month, Lottery Deputy Director of Gaming Compliance Gina Smith told the board her office has received applications for facility operator, principal entity, manufacturer and major and minor vendors, and she anticipates receiving “thousands of applications” in the coming months.

The board’s proposed permanent casino gaming regulations have been reviewed by the governor’s office and are currently undergoing a 60-day public review that ends Dec. 24. The lottery board could potentially vote on those regulations at its January 2022 meeting, and approval there would trigger another gubernatorial review before becoming final. The regulations must be in place by October 2022.

Hard Rock Bristol project

According to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino-Bristol's website, they plan to leverage their experience developing cafes, hotels, and casinos throughout the world. It will be helpful in long-term planning for the city and manage the property to grow for decades. They believe their planning will aid the long-term success of the facility, while continuing to be a driving economic force for Bristol, Virginia.

Plans

They plan to start by opening with 1,500 slot machines, 55 gaming tables, at least 300 hotel rooms, 7 restaurants and 4 bars. They also plan to have a Hard Rock Live venue with 3,200 seats. The outdoor entertainment venue is expected to seat 20,000 people.

Their nightlife experience will be 9,250 square feet, with a Hard Rock Cafe -complete with stage for local musicians. They will have a 50,000 sqare foot of convention space, a Rock Spa with 7 treatment rooms, a sports simulator, and a racing experience.

They plan to expand the operation to 2,700 slots and over 100 gaming tables once they begin to reach full expansion. These will be accompanied with 750 hotel rooms, with room for more.

Embraced

We believe the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino-Bristol will not only strive to accommodate the Country Music history of the twin-cities (Bristol, TN/VA), but may also become part of the music festivals usually located on the other end of Bristol's State Street, near the train station and historic Bristol sign.

The many local breweries and distilleries make a an excellent backdrop for the bars, and Bristol Motor Speedway would also be good to touch on with a local theme for the development. We can only wait and see how the project managers and operations let the development unfold for Bristolians.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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