BILOXI -- Work started in November to renovate the hotel tower at Harrah's Gulf Coast and with a budget of "$14 million -- and growing," said General Manager Jonathan Jones, the makeover is ready for its Memorial Day weekend reveal.
The official ribbon-cutting was Wednesday, although guests have been enjoying the hotel rooms all year. The project was done in five phases -- two or three floors at a time -- and Yates Construction finished the first phase late last year.
"We were able to put some of our best guests in the rooms for New Year's Eve," Jones said.
The casino and restaurants were renovated in 2014 when the property was rebranded as Harrah's Gulf Coast, Jones said. The makeover of the rooms came sooner than planned and "everything in here is brand-new," he said.
That means new flooring, furniture, mattresses, lighting, curtains and bedding, said Kennedy Smith, vice president of marketing, hotel and spa.
Las Vegas-based Marnell design firm gave the hotel bold touches of Harrah's purple against neutral beige walls, and art to carry the beach theme.
Ship Island, the largest of the penthouse suites, has a kitchen area, bar and living area for entertaining and an opulent master bath with a huge jetted tub. The view also is first class, looking out over the pool to Deer Island and toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The Deer Island suite, nearly as large and luxurious, can be made into a two-bedroom suite. The 11 executive suites accommodate recreational and business travelers.
During the renovation, the room count increased by a few to 499 rooms. Technology was added to the deluxe king and queen rooms with large-screen TVs and phones that serve as docking stations for most every kind of electronic device.
The hotel also went green, with soap and shampoo dispensers replacing the little disposable bottles.
"All our rooms now have refrigerators," said Smith, something guests had requested.
Harrah's also remodeled all the hotel hallways, the elevator cabs and the mechanics, he said.
Guests can choose the view, the size of room, and smoking or non-smoking.
"We also have pet rooms here," Smith said. They are in one section on the second floor and have wood-tile floors instead of carpeting.
Bellissimo Spa also got a refresh with a new front desk and larger retail area.
Smith tells people, "We might not be the biggest on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but we have access to the largest database of customers."
Parent company Caesars Entertainment has a database of 45 million Total Rewards members, and Jones said half of the casino's guests come from 300 or more miles away.
This summer, Toby Keith will perform on Independence Day weekend and other acts are still to be announced.
Jones said Harrah's Gulf Coast is looking long term, with a view to adding amenities to attract a new crop of guests to South Mississippi.