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A time line of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

A lot has happened in the five years since the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino celebrated its grand opening on March 12, 2004. Come to think of it, a lot happened before then, too. Here's a brief guide.

1980: During construction of the Fort Brooke parking garage in downtown Tampa, a state archaeologist discovers the remains of some 140 once-captive Seminoles, dating back to the 1830s. The Seminole Tribe of Florida purchases 8.3 acres of land near the Florida State Fairgrounds for $185,000, with the goal of reinterring the remains and opening an educational museum.

1981: Florida awards the tribe's land "separate nation" status. In July, the tribe opens a tax-free smoke shop on the land, enraging state lawmakers who stood to lose millions in annual revenue. In August, the 140 Seminole remains are buried on the grounds.

1982: In June, the Seminoles open a 1,300-seat bingo hall, offering purses of up to $15,000.

1986: The tribe opens the Sheraton Tampa East, featuring contemporary design and minimal Seminole iconography, in December. The tribe, whose yearly budget had been as little as $500,000 in 1978, sees annual revenues of $10 million.

1997: The Seminole Tribe of Florida reports $497 million in revenue in the 1997 fiscal year. Annual tribe member payouts briefly reach $24,000.

2000: The Seminoles announce plans to partner with Hard Rock Cafe on a $5 million expansion of the Tampa bingo hall.

2001: The Seminoles and Hard Rock unveil plans to spend $400 million on casino-hotels in Tampa and Hollywood. Five months later, Chief James E. Billie, the man who for 21 years had led the tribe's bingo and gambling efforts, is ousted from his post amid a federal corruption investigation.

2003: The first section of the Hard Rock opens. It is 45,000 square feet, with 810 video gambling machines, 28 poker tables and an 800-seat bingo hall. The Seminole Bingo Casino building is destroyed, clearing way to double the casino's size.

2004: The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino celebrates its official grand opening in a ceremony with skydiving Elvises and a tribal elder christening the building by smashing a guitar outside.

2005: Broward County voters approve the use of Las Vegas-style slot machines at three races tracks and a jai alai fronton.

2007: The Hard Rock opens a $120 million expansion, including the Council Oak steak house and an additional 60,000 square feet of gaming space. In November, after years of resistance, Florida agrees to allow certain Vegas-style games (blackjack, slots, baccarat) at Seminole casinos.

2008: Vegas-style slots finally hit the Hard Rock in April. In November, blackjack begins.

2009: The Super Bowl returns to Tampa, and the Hard Rock is ground zero for celebrity spotting. Paris Hilton, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, and the Kardashian family are among the hotel's famous guests.

From Times staff and archives

A time line of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 10:04am]
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