GARY — The leaders of the Gary police and fire departments won big Thursday at the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana without even going inside the spacious new building adjacent to Interstate 80/94 at Burr Street that pulses with music and excitement.
In recognition of National First Responders Day, Hard Rock presented both Gary Police Chief Brian Evans and Gary Fire Chief Sean O'Donnell oversized guitar-shaped checks worth $72,000 to purchase two 2022 Ford F-150 trucks for each department.
"It's the least we can do for the support you give us each and every day," said Matt Schuffert, president of Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. "We would not be as successful as we have been without your support."
Schuffert said the donation is part of Hard Rock's continuing efforts to back its hometown first responders and to recognize the work Gary police, firefighters, and paramedics do on behalf of the casino and its patrons.
"The safety of our team members and our guests is number one for us," Schuffert said. "We want to make sure everyone who comes here has a great time and is safe and secure while doing it.
"Early on, and even going back to when the Majestic Star facility was open, there's been a great, positive relationship with both the police department and the fire department."
Evans said the two new trucks will help the police department continue to modernize its vehicle fleet and ensure Gary police officers are ready to safely respond to every call, no matter the weather or road conditions.
"Vehicles are an expensive part of police operations," Evans said. "Right now vehicles are more than just police cars, they're actually a mobile office. The officer can do everything in the vehicle, from a basic police report to an arrest report."
O'Donnell noted the Gary fire department likewise "sorely" is in need of new vehicles.
He said the two new trucks funded by the casino will enable chief officers to more easily get around to different fire scenes and carry additional firefighting equipment to where it's needed, when it's needed.
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said the first responder donations, along with Hard Rock's other ongoing philanthropic work throughout the Steel City, "shows they are committed to the city of Gary and truly here to stay."
"From the beginning, Hard Rock has proven itself to be a great partner to the city of Gary," Prince said. "Thank you. What a great day in the city of Gary! Clouds are out, but this truly this is a tremendous day."
The Hard Rock Casino opened May 14 in Gary as a replacement for the aged Majestic Star Casino boats located at Buffington Harbor on Lake Michigan. It's the first state-regulated, land-based casino located in Northwest Indiana.
The new casino features nearly 1,500 slot machines, 80 table games, five restaurants including a Hard Rock Cafe, a 1,916-seat performance venue called Hard Rock Live, and a sports book opening soon.