NETG took a ride to Springfield, Mass to see how MGM Springfield’s Urban Casino/Resort was shaping up. While it looks like it has a long way to go to open in 2018, I would bet MGM International knows how to turn buildings into marvel quickly and efficiently.
So here is a slide show with renderings first, followed by the construction of the same area or structure. Keep in mind, without permission, and leaving our hard hats at home, this was the closest to the rendering spots as we could get.
I’m including the following MGM Springfield Plan (above) so you can get a perspective of the project.
I some ways, the project has changed. All the while, CT & MGM has seemingly been at war over potential revenue & jobs. So, today, I revisit my opinions and analysis of the MGM Springfield Urban Casino project.
I want MGM Springfield to succeed……….There, I said it.
Mostly, I want it to bring revenue for an economically needy city, while enhancing the New England Casino landscape, not digging it up. I want it to be beautiful and to enhance the rundown parts of Springfield.
Benefit For a Needy City
Springfield is considered #5 in a list of “Most Dangerous Towns to Live In” by OnlyInYourState.com . Springfield is the third largest city in Massachusetts – Population: 154,518. Annual crimes per 1,000 residents: 10.39 violent crimes, 45.46 property crimes and 55.85 total reported crimes. “If both property and violent crimes were considered, Springfield would rank #3.”
But I do feel the people of Springfield will benefit with a strong Host Community Agreement. It calls for “MGM Resorts to make upfront and advance payments, totaling $15 million to the City of Springfield. The upfront payment will be distributed to the city in installments during the construction phase of the project. When MGM Springfield opens for business, the city will receive in excess of $25 million annually in payments. These monies will be used to enhance public safety, support early childhood education and for general public purposes.” (from the FAQ at MGMSpringfield.com)
I want it to be another casino jewel in New England in southern New England’s Casino Ring as a gambling/tourist destination. MGM, Wynn, Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Twin River – all large casinos with hotel amenities providing for vacations & stay-cations alike all in a radius of 120 miles.
Eight casinos inside this radius by 2020.
The original plan video can be seen here. The original plans were impressive, but the hotel tower plans have changed, and the parking garage will be lower by two floors. MGM is also moving the apartments in the opening of the video further away from the casino. Inside, MGM Springfield looks similar to Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas (Sumerlain), with restaurants outlying the casino, and the essential “Center Bar” made so famous in casino design by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas long ago. It has modern looks like MGM’s latest “Aria,” but much brighter.
Will MGM have the same poor to mediocre Video Poker paytables and average gaming rules that are in all their other properties? The exception is Borgata when they purchased Boyd Gaming’s joint share. They now own one of the best casinos in Atlantic City, as well as the entire country. Keeping the good gambling options at Borgata and similar options at MGM Springfield will be crucial to compete with CT, RI & Wynn Boston Harbor for New England’s gambling revenue.
MGM Operation of MassMutual Center
Mass Mutual Civic Center, Springfield, MA
MGM Springfield and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, announced a joint bid for the five-year contract to operate the MassMutual Center, a multipurpose arena and convention center, in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. Under this joint bid, MGM Springfield would serve as the venue management company and Spectra would provide food and beverage services through its Food Services & Hospitality division. Michael Mathis, President and Chief Operating Officer for MGM Springfield said, “….the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) has a prime opportunity to select the best of the best to operate this great facility.”
No Smoking, No Free Booze
In the casino area, will MGM & Wynn be powerful enough to influence a repeal to the “NO Happy Hour” Law in Massachusetts? Imagine no alcohol freebies on a casino floor owned by MGM & Wynn – blasphemy! And remember, ALL Massachusetts casinos are to be non-smoking. The options provided for smokers at Plainridge Park in Plainville seem almost punitive. Massachusetts Casino Law has the entire casino as non-smoking.
MLife Rewards Club of MGM
A key factor in MGM Springfield’s success will be the connection through its rewards club, MLife, providing perks to MGM’s properties from Las Vegas to the east coast. Earning points in Springfield that can be used in Las Vegas & Biloxi (MGM owns Beau Rivage Resort Casino there) is exciting! Let’s face it, MGM does own some incredible properties. Imagine earning connections to stay at Bellagio in Las Vegas, as well as attracting Las Vegans to our little corner of the country. This attraction can only help MGM to help the city of Springfield and the state of Massachusetts with jobs and revenue.
THE BATTLE CONTINUES
I decided to leave the discussion of MGM’s ongoing battle with Connecticut and their 3rd casino on the CT/MA border for another day. This is about Springfield’s residents and the ability that MGM has in its hands to help the city rise from its ashes.
Now is the time for action to help save the city of Springfield, to focus on the positives that MGM Springfield brings.
As Jean-Luc Picard said in Star Trek Next Generations, I say to MGM concerning the welfare of Springfield, “Make it so!”
Last month, an interesting article was written by Ali Izzi of the Springfield Student. The premise was that MGM Springfield would revitalize the city. While the article was well written, and in many aspects, were good points, some of the post needs to be examined further. Let me explain….
She begins by saying “Imagine a grand casino building with a promenade deck to its side and an overly spacious parking garage to its rear.” First of all, while the parking garage has already been diminished by one floor in the planning, and I question where the guests AND employees will park.
A bird’s eye view of the site, courtesy of wwlp.com
If MGM Springfield is going to be the success that MGM says it will be, the parking garage is already inadequate. If parking is paid around the city, MGM will introduce paid casino parking so that people won’t park for free in their garage. Sound familiar (Las Vegas + MGM = paid parking at MGM properties, followed by Caesars, followed by Cosmopolitan, etc…..)?
She continues, “Adjacent on the street is a hotel, a movie theater, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink, and even some small shops. A trolley shuffles its way down Main Street and lively residents file out of their new apartment building.” True. The whole idea that MGM is trying to conceive is an “urban casino.” Matter of fact, MGM International CEO Jim Murren admits they are in the resort business, not the casino business. The amenities Ali mentions will help bring the residents of Springfield together. Additional city transportation is icing on the cake.
“…Land usage for all of the casino’s embellishments had to be approved by the council, by late January and February 2016, construction was under way behind the beloved Red Rose Pizzeria.” Thank goodness, Red Rose wouldn’t sell.
Red Rose Pizzeria Springfield, MA
And why should they? They are a part of Springfield’s fabric as much as cheese on a pizza! Some things must survive – the old with the new – to bring Springfield to the next level of tourism in New England.
“Another idea that has been passed through the council is a trolley that can transport people to the casino from the Amtrak and Peter Pan stations on the North End. The idea is that the more of the city that can be involved, the more tourism and businesses there will be, which would possibly lead to more jobs.” Again, Ali is spot on. Springfield needs jobs as well as revenue. It needs to become a destination again.
One area of concern – crime. In a city dealing with an increase it is often considered in national crime lists. According to according to Law Street, Springfield ranks 6th worse crime area in the country under the category of “not-so-major American cities.” One thing is a positive, Hartford & New Haven, CT., are ranked higher.
Jim Murren & MGM Resorts
As Ms. Izzi says, “Preserving and uplifting the city is a crucial part in the casino’s presence, especially since areas such as the North End are becoming more and more poverty stricken.”
MGM’s intentions, for now, are commendable. But we have also seen in the past that MGM takes pride in itself as a business, not necessarily for its altruistic nature. Being philanthropic is not part of the MGM “Profit Growth Plan.”
But it is exciting to think of the possibilities for Springfield’s residents and culture.
Let’s hope that MGM Springfield DOES put the city on the New England map again – for all the right reasons.