Hard Rock Northern Indiana Donates $3M to Downtown Gary Revitalization

Posted on: April 1, 2024, 11:27h. 

Last updated on: April 1, 2024, 02:34h.

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana has made a $3 million donation to the City of Gary to help revitalize the downtown area.

Hard Rock Northern Indiana Gary blight
A rendering of a cleaned-up area surrounding the Genesis Convention Center in downtown Gary, Ind. The blight improvement initiative is being partially funded by a $3 million donation from Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. (Image: City of Gary)

Gary Mayor Eddie Melton and Matt Schuffert, president of the Hard Rock casino, announced the $3 million gift. The funds will be allocated for blight elimination within Gary’s Metro Transit Development District, which primarily encompasses the Northwest Indiana city’s Broadway Corridor.   

Hard Rock is pleased to support Mayor Melton’s mission to improve the economic development of the City of Gary by demolishing the blighted properties that currently stand in the way,” said Schuffert.

The Hard Rock Indiana boss said the donation aligns with Hard Rock International’s “All Is One” campaign, a company motto dating back to 1971 that requires the conglomerate to support the communities where it operates.

“This catalytic donation from Hard Rock marks a new chapter in Gary’s story, one where we begin to turn the page on blight and write our future,” added Melton. “A future in which Gary residents see real change and feel a renewed sense of pride in our downtown Broadway Corridor. With this $3M contribution, we are planting seeds of hope and growth for our downtown.”

Hard Rock Indiana has 1,700 slots, 80 table games, and a sportsbook. The property additionally offers several restaurants and bars and an entertainment venue. The casino has no onsite hotel.   

New Casino, New Ownership

Hard Rock Northern Indiana opened in May 2021 at a cost of more than $300 million. The first land-based casino in the state’s northwestern gaming corridor, the casino came via a partnership between Florida-based Hard Rock International and Indiana-based Spectacle Entertainment.

Spectacle successfully relocated its two Gary riverboats on Lake Michigan, the Majestic Star and Majestic Star II, the second of which was known as the Trump Casino until late 2005, about five miles inland in conjunction with Hard Rock.

The gaming and hospitality behemoth owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida rescued Spectacle amid a legal dispute involving alleged illicit campaign contributions.

The scandal dated back to Centaur Gaming, a company that was owned by Spectacle founder Rod Ratcliff. John Keeler, a former Spectacle and Centaur executive, was later indicted on federal charges.

Ratcliff settled with the state in an agreement that required him to sell his shares in Spectacle and depart the Indiana gaming industry. Hard Rock took 85% control of Spectacle through the resolution.

Gary Needs Help 

During his time as a state senator, Melton championed legislation promoting economic development in Lake County.

Senate Bill 434, which Melton authored and had passed and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) last year, provides the county in which Gary resides with matching grants for public and private contributions to clean up blight in the city. As a result of SB 434, Hard Rock’s $3 million pledge will be doubled by the state.

Melton says the first order of business will be demolishing the Genesis Convention Center parking garage, which has sat abandoned for years because of structural integrity concerns. The remaining money will be used to demolish vacant buildings in the immediate area of the convention center.

Gary is in desperate need of such economic revitalization funds.

The birthplace of Michael Jackson, Gary is one of the most distressed cities in Indiana. Once the largest steel mill complex in the United States, Gary’s population has plunged from nearly 180K people in the 1960s to less than 70K as counted by the 2020 U.S. Census.

The exodus has left many buildings vacant and resulted in much blight throughout the town. The median household income for the remaining population from 2018 through 2022 was just $36,874.