Seen onstage at Zappeion Hall with the design of the IRC tower in the background are Ioannis Oikonomou, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and Government Spokesman, Akis Skertsos, Minister of State for the Coordination of Government Policies, Jim Allen, CEO of the global entertainment conglomerate of Hard Rock International (HRI), Adonis Georgiades, Minister of Development and Investments, , and Giorgos Peristeris, Chairman and CEO multifaceted company and construction giant GEK TERNA, Vasilis Kikilias, Minister of Tourism. Also present was Costas Fragoyiannis, Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitropoulos)
ΑTHENS – It’s much more than a casino. As Minister of Development and Investments Adonis Georgiades and Jim Allen, CEO of the global entertainment conglomerate of Hard Rock International (HRI), and Giorgos Peristeris, Chairman and CEO multifaceted company and construction giant GEK TERNA emphasized repeatedly on June 22, the Integrated Resort Casino (IRC) the two companies have undertaken to build at the long-abandoned Hellenikon Airport on Attika’s coast will be Greece’s entertainment gateway to the world, a world class magnet that will enormously boost Greece’s tourism product.
As the guests at the press conference in Zappeion Hall that introduced the joint venture and the architectural designs learned, the world class billion euro IRC is expected to open late 2025-early 2026. It will be a very important part of the 8 billion euro Hellenikon project, but it will also advance Greece’s long-term goal of making the county a year-round, not just a ‘sea and sun’ attraction. Its other important components include an exciting indoor-outdoor theater and a world class conference center, much needed in Athens. There will also be abundant restaurants, lounges, and spaces spotlighting Greek culture but also bringing the best of the world to Greece, as well as family and child oriented facilities HRI is also famous for.
THE NEW GREECE IS COMING
The Hellenikon project was long been presented an emblematic investment for Greece, but the IRC can be called an emblematic part of Hellenikon because investors, Greek and non-Greek alike, saw it as a litmus test – whether or not the IRC moved forward was an sign that the country really wanted to welcome them and was truly emerging from the ashes of the financial crisis. On June 22, the message was: “the New Greece has arrived.”
Georgiades, representing Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was out of the country, thanked all the guests but especially HRI “for taking this bold decision to participate in the Hellenikon project. It’s a very important day for Greece… it is virtually the number 1 project of our country.” Noting the process leading to that moment was very complex, he said, turning to the HRI delegation, “today we are doing what we should have done from the start. What we are building today will make history…this is a partnership of two top companies.”
Georgiades emphasized that the IRC will be visited by Greeks from all walks of life who will go to enjoy the live entertainment only Hard Rock can bring to the country. “It will be a space of joy and relaxation for all Greeks, giving them a taste of international night life.” After previously noting that GEK TERNA is involved in virtually every important project in Greece, he said if there is any company that can build it…it is HRI.”
Speaking briefly, Peristeris expressed his excitement about the project and thanked the public officials for their help, because, he emphasized, “it is important for Greek companies to participate in the country’s major projects.”
Allen was the most excited of all. After saying on behalf of HRI’s over 50,000 employees in 70 countries and the Seminole Tribe in Florida, “we cannot thank you enough for this amazing opportunity,” Allen provided an overview of both HRI and the IRC. He emphasized, “we are not a casino company, however, we’re very good at that – and, candidly, the most profitable in the world in that category. We are about entertainment, and we are about giving back,” later highlighting HRI’s extensive philanthropic endeavors.
He then affirmed that the IRC “will create thousands of construction jobs. It will create over 3,000 permanent jobs from all walks of life.” Most importantly for the project and for Greece, HRI will use its marketing power to direct visitors to the IRC. “Over 140 million people on an annual basis visit Hard Rock locations…This year we will present 40,000 live events… One of the most important questions is how do we market this opportunity, this amazing location, on a global basis.” He then announced, “we now have a technology platform that unifies every customer that comes to any Hard Rock location in the world,” which they will deploy to draw people from all over the world to Hellenikon.”
ON A CLEAR DAY…
Guests at the Zappeion witnessed the unveiling of the first drawings of the complex that will include a high rise luxury hotel of around 1,000 rooms and two setbacks and a roof deck with thrilling venues boasting spectacular views. Guests will feel they can reach out and touch the nearby mountains and beaches, the islands of the Saronic Gulf, and the Peloponnesos beyond. The theater, which will seat between 4,000 and 10,000 people depending on th event, promises near year-round concerts by the top performers in the world produced attracted by the global Hard Rock brand and the glories of Greece.
Indeed, some guests noted that after years of the name evoking smirks from Greece and foreigners alike, the ‘Athenian Riviera’ will finally become a reality thanks to the IRC.
The Emcees for the presentation were Angela Karageorgou, founder and CEO of On Point Communications, and Konstantinos Lambrou, member of the Board of GEK TERNA. A project of this magnitude has a lot of moving parts – and the honored guests at the Zappeion included some of those who were instrumental in moving it forward, including officials from Lambda Development, which is building the overall Hellenikon project, including the Metropolitan Park that will be one of Europe’s largest. Also present were Akis Skertsos, Minister of State responsible for the coordination of Government policies, Ioannis Oikonomou, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and Government Spokesman, Vasilis Kikilias, Minister of Tourism, and Costas Fragoyiannis, Greece’s Deputy Foreign Ministry responsible for economic diplomacy.
Greek-American Michael Karloutsos, HRI’s representative in Greece, told The National Herald, “this is something we’ve worked on for three years, but more importantly, the people of Greece have been dreaming about it for 20 years – ever since Hellenikon airport shut down and people walk and drive by and wondered what will happen there.”
All the speakers noted it took a lot of work, but sometimes – even in Greece – things happen because they make sense, and observers agree with Georgiades that the HRI-GEK TERNA joint venture will make history. On June 23 it was announced that voting on the fast-track bill ratifying the concession for the casino is scheduled for June 28 in Parliament.
Karloutsos added, “I’m happy to say that we’ve taken this monumental step – but really, no statement can do justice to what we will do in three years, when we actually open to the public and bring life to that place. Today is a great step and I’m very appreciative of the support the government, the Lamba Group, the Latsis family, and of course, our partner, GEK TERNA and Giorgos Peristeris. It all happened because of them – it’s really about bringing people who are well intended together and want to do something for the place that they love – Greece.”
Have an idea for a story, or know of an event we should cover? We want to hear about it!
The National Herald is the paper of record of the Greek Diaspora community. Through independent journalism, we bring news to generations of Greek-Americans, with stories on the individual, community and international level. Visit and support our 106 year-old sister publication Εθνικός Κήρυξ.
You’re reading 1 of 3 free articles this month. Get unlimited access to The National Herald. or Log In