Turner Construction Spearheads Casino Addition for Harrah’s Cherokee $633M Expansion

Owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Harrah's Cherokee occupies 56 acres at the mouth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 50 miles west of Asheville.

Construction of the casino segment of the $633 million expansion of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel in Cherokee, N.C., is now underway, with Turner Construction managing the gaming space addition under a $100 million contract.

Owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Harrah’s Cherokee occupies 56 acres at the mouth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 50 miles west of Asheville. The multi-phase expansion, which is one of the largest hospitality projects presently in progress in the U.S., encompasses the development of the 500,000-square-foot, 532-room Cherokee Hotel Tower III, an 18,000-square-foot spa, a 3,000-seat events center, as well as additional parking facilities and restaurant and retail offerings. The casino portion of the endeavor calls for Turner to renovate the existing gaming space and supplement it with an additional 110,000 square feet, thereby nearly doubling the property’s total gaming space to 240,000 square feet.

Plans for the gargantuan multi-year expansion of Harrah’s Cherokee, designed to position the property as the Southeast’s leading gaming destination, were originally conceived in 2007. While the nation’s gaming industry has yet to recover from the impact of the global recession, new casino projects are moving forward in some markets to prepare for impending demand, or in the case of Harrah’s Cherokee, untapped demand.

“In markets where a casino is, say, only 10 miles outside of a big city, you’re going to capture people in the area because they are going to go to the place that is closest,” Jacob Oberman, Director of Gaming Research & Analysis for real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis’ Global Gaming Group, told CPE. “But when you’re talking about a casino that is two or three hours away from a large population, you need better facilities to attract people and that’s where amenities are important. Harrah’s Cherokee is about 150 miles from big cities like Asheville and Atlanta so it’s too far for the population to do a day trip, so with a new hotel and extra gaming space, it’s easier to capture some of that population.”

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is on track to complete the Harrah’s Cherokee multi-phase expansion project in January 2013.