Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino Goes BigNovember 29, 2010 By: Alissa Ponchione
When you’re running a casino and resort in the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, N.C., it’s important to offer something for everyone from a luxury spa to a large area for concerts or a lounge for the more chic guests. For Don Mangen, manager of Harrah’s Entertainment at Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino does just that; it’s a luxurious, fun, spacious and entertaining one-stop resort.
The 15,000 square-foot casino and resort is going through a massive $633 million expansive — one of the largest in the U.S. — with an expected finish date for the 56-acre resort in 2012. In June of this year, the 175-seat Entertainment Lounge opened on the property’s Mountain Breeze zone, one of the four themed zones of the casino. This Zone features 700 games and a 3,000-seat Events center on the upper level, which opened on Labor Day. This is just one of the many new ventures opening at the Cherokee Hotel and Casino. Mangen updates VIBE on the project and the food, beverage and entertainment options available now and in the near future.
VIBE: What kind of entertainment do you offer at the Entertainment Lounge?
Don Mangen: Since the Entertainment Lounge opened in June, we have hosted music acts Wednesday thru Saturday night, such as live karaoke and the Ultimate Elvis Contest in addition to DJ’s and live bands. We also feature Pay-Per-View events such as UFC and Boxing.
VIBE: What is the Lounge like?
Mangen: The décor is hard to explain. It is very modern with a lot of led lights. Plus I have over 30 TVs for sports and we also have video poker at the bar The Lounge has a capacity up to 300 with a large stage up front, a large projection screen and plasma screen TVs.
VIBE: What kinds of cocktails are on your menu?
Mangen: The Lounge has full bar service with a comprehensive wine list, specialty cocktails, and domestic and imported beers, including six draft beers. We are in the process of creating a signature drink for the Lounge. Ciroc Redberry seems to be a favorite. In addition to the beverages, we offer a menu of hors d’oeuvres, light dishes and desserts. I just did away with the drink menu and am having each bartender create a signature drink that will go on the menu.
VIBE: What’s the overall vibe of the Lounge?
Mangen: The purpose of the Lounge is pure entertainment. It’s a fun, high-energy lounge designed to flow with the moods and personality of the time of day and type of entertainment currently offered. The live music includes a rotating roster of entertainment like live bands, karaoke and a DJ, including Pay Per View boxing, UFC, and football. We are focused on having something for everyone.
VIBE: What kind of performers have you been able to book?
Mangen: Given the size of the Lounge and the large stage, we have an opportunity to try a variety of acts as we did with the Ultimate Elvis Contest. We also brought in DJ San-D from Masquerade New Orleans. Currently guests can visit us to see some favorite local and regional bands or try some karaoke.
VIBE: Did DJ San-D have to change his style at all after moving from New Orleans?
Mangen: DJ San-D is one of the premiere Video DJ’s in the country. During his time in New Orleans he was able to refine his video editing to truly put on a great show, and it is reflected here in sets. He didn’t have to change his style at all, and what he is doing is something new and fresh to everyone around here. Many DJ’s want to be celebrities these days, but to true video artists like DJ San-D and DJ Kris P from LA it is all about the music and keeping the venue full of energy.
VIBE: What’s your marketing strategy?
Mangen: In August, we enacted a fun and interesting publicity stunt to draw attention to the new Lounge. We created a series of “Flash Mob” stunts in one day in Asheville, N.C., Charlotte, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and Atlanta, entitled “Follow Me to Cherokee.” We had buses wrapped in signage from the property, and in each city actors dressed as regular people would freeze on the street by the bus and point to it. After a minute or so, music would start blaring from the bus, and the actors would all cheer and run excitedly back to the bus. Extras handed out flyers about the Entertainment Lounge to the amused bystanders. This stunt generated a lot of social media activity and digital chatter about the property and the Lounge. We are also hosting media events on property and in our major target markets, including Atlanta and one upcoming in Charlotte.
VIBE: What do you hope will come of this casino?
Mangen: The property is in the midst of a major expansion project – one of the largest in the US. We just opened a new 3,000-plus seat Event Center that hosted Lady Antebellum and Hank Williams Jr. on its opening weekend. The new 532-room Creek Tower is opening up in December, and an 18,000-square foot Mandara Spa was just announced.
Our new restaurant offerings include Paula Deen’s Kitchen by the Food Network star, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Brio Tuscan Grille. We’ll also be adding seven new retail outlets, a state-of-the-art digital poker room, an Asian Gaming Room and Noodle Bar, and a 350-seat VIP Lounge. Nearby we have Sequoyah National Golf Club, an 18-hole par 72 championship course designed by golf architect Robert Trent Jones II and Native American golf pro Notah Begay III. When it is all said and done Harrah’s Cherokee will truly be a premier resort destination in a beautiful part of the country.