Hard Rock Hotel unveils new concert venue in Vegas

LAS VEGAS " The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is hoping its newest attraction will be a draw for audiences and top musicians.

Officials for the off-Strip Las Vegas hotel unveiled The Joint on Tuesday, a new music venue that officials say fits 4,000 people with no seat more than 155 feet away from the stage.

The concert hall opens this weekend with shows by The Killers, Avenged Sevenfold and Paul McCartney. Carlos Santana has also signed up for a rock residency, with the legendary guitarist doing shows starting May 27 and running through 2010.

John Meglen, president of Concerts West, an AEG Live company that books shows at several venues in Las Vegas including the Hard Rock, says he hopes Santana will make other musicians want to play The Joint and give the venue a reputation similar to other famous venues around the country.

"Carlos rings of credibility, and that's what I wanted was credibility," Meglen said. "We want it to be a little rougher."

Meglen said creating a venue that is well-respected by artists will draw them here and allow promoters to offer shows that wouldn't be seen elsewhere.

The venue is part of a $750 million expansion for the hotel that includes two new hotel towers with 860 rooms, more casino space and convention and meeting facilities.

Randy Kwasniewski, president and chief operating officer of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, said the expansion is meant to give customers that have grown up with the Hard Rock brand a higher-end experience while still keeping the hotel's vibe intact.

"We don't want to isolate anyone," said Kwasniewski, who is also president of Morgans Hotel Group, Las Vegas.

Kwasniewski said other elements of the expansion are on time and under budget " and fully financed.

"We probably got our financing within about an hour of the markets falling apart," Kwasniewski said. "Not exaggerating, it was probably a week."

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