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A Long-Awaited Triumph: Tejon Indian Tribe Partners With Hard Rock International to Develop $600M Casino

After decades of fighting for its land base and the economic development opportunities that come with that, the resilient Tejon Indian Tribe is building a $600 million casino resort with Hard Rock International in southern California. The proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon will deliver a complete resort experience with165,500-square-feet of gaming, a 400-room hotel, 13 restaurants, a live entertainment venue, a spa and fitness facility, and “the largest conference and meeting space in Kern County.” 

“Hard Rock International is excited to partner with the Tejon Indian Tribe, assisting in the achievement of (its) long-term goals,” said Jim Allen, Chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International, which owns, operates and franchises entertainment and gaming businesses in 73 countries. Hard Rock counts 184 cafes, 237 Rock Shop stores, 28 hotels and 11 casinos.

Tejon Tribe Chairman Octavio Escobedo called the project an “economic driver” that will bring employment opportunities to the Tribe’s 972 members and Kern County’s approximately 893,119 residents. “Good paying jobs and career opportunities translate into better healthcare, education and economic independence,” Chairman Escobedo said.   

“Members of our Tribe have worked for and with the Sheriff’s office and the Kern County Fire Department for many years and we are committed to providing those entities with the facilities and equipment they need to enhance public safety not only for our project but for that entire area of the County,” Chairman Escobedo continued. “Our project will be privately financed, not costing taxpayers a single dime, and employment opportunities will be available to all qualified applicants, not just Tribal members.”

The land and economic development project represent a rebirth to the Tejon Indian Tribe, which has remained “landless” for over a century. In a watershed moment for the Tejon Indian Tribe in January 2012, federal recognition was restored. After decades of fighting for Tribal reaffirmation, the Tribe opened its office in Bakersfield, California, in May 2012. The Tribe’s new partnership with Hard Rock is a major stride toward self-determination, as well as economic and social revitalization for the 972-member Tribe.    

The Tejon Tribe will build the casino on 52 acres of a 306-acre parcel of trust land, adjacent to the Tribe’s forthcoming 22-acre RV park, according to project details unveiled June 4. The property will also host administrative offices, a health-care facility and housing.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon is coming to Mettler, a farming community home to just 136 residents at the 2010 census, situated in Kern County, an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of Los Angeles. 

As Richard Chapman, CEO of Kern Economic Development Corp., underscored in an op-ed published by Bakersfield.com, the iconic Hard Rock brand — recently recognized by Forbes as a U.S. Best Employer as well as a Best Employer for Women — will bolster the regional economy and create and expand business. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon is expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs and over 2,000 permanent jobs once completed. “Kern County will reap significant economic benefits from this exciting $600 million hospitality and entertainment project,” Chapman stated in a press release.

The $600 resort development will contribute to the burgeoning $1.5 billion tourism industry in Kern County, Chapman underscored in his op-ed, noting: “The HRI [Hard Rock International] project alone will generate hundreds of millions of new money into the local economy as a tourist destination throughout the state.”

The Tejon resort will also expand the Seminole Tribe’s presence in California’s gaming market. The $440 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain is slated to open its doors this fall in Northern California.

RELATED: Enterprise Rancheria, Seminole Tribe Celebrate ‘Topping Off’ of Joint Casino Near Sacramento 

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