ATLANTIC CITY - A ceremonial grand opening was held Thursday for a conference center at an Atlantic City resort, and officials hope it is the start of the city's rebirth.

Harrah's Waterfront Conference Center is already open for business in the Marina District. Local leaders, lawmakers and officials from Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which owns Harrah's, attended the ceremony.

The 100,000-square-foot center is part of $125 million expansion to Harrah's Resort. Caesars acknowledged that expanding in Atlantic City was a risk after so many casinos folded.

According to Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, the bet on the convention center has paid off. "This time last year, Caesars had 7,000 rooms booked for the next 12 months," he said. "This year ... that 7,000 number has grown to 97,000 room nights."

"This is the rebirth, this is the beginning," said Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. "You're going to be hearing more and more announcements of things happening in Atlantic City," he told the crowd.

The conference center currently has bookings through 2019.