Another casino developer has jumped into the fray to obtain the sole gambling license for Western Massachusetts. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International unveiled their plans today [Wednesday] to build an $800 million casino complex in Springfield. After dropping plans earlier this year to build a resort in Brimfield, MGM Resorts invited elected officials, business and civic leaders to the MassMutual Center to view their presentation of a project encompassing about ten acres over three blocks in Springfield’s South End. In addition to the casino, the half-million square foot complex would include a 25-story hotel, dining, retail and entertainment space, parking and market-rate apartment rentals. The proposed site is the same part of the city hit by last year’s tornado. MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren says he wants to help revive Springfield as a world class destination resort.
“You have great bones here in the city. The job that we have is to help knit all that together. We don’t want to build a box; we want to build an urban environment. We want people to walk up and down the streets; we want people to enjoy themselves. We want people to shop, we want people to go to the movies and go bowling, we want families to enjoy being here, we want people to move back into the city. And I think we can be a big catalyst to all that.”
MGM’s presentation was impressive, according to local businessman Claudio Guerra, who owns several area restaurants, including Mama Iguanas across the highway from the proposed complex. He says such this kind of project could help energize the city. But he says it could also be a problem for nearby businesses to deal with what he calls the new 800 pound gorilla in town.
“I think there’s a good chance that they could pull it off and really help Springfield become more of what it should be… a vibrant, exciting place to go. But for me, on the other side of 91 at the Basketball Hall of Fame, I think it’s going to be a challenge retaining customers and employees.”
So far MGM is the second developer to formally release its plan for a casino in Springfield. There is also a proposal being talked about for a casino in the city’s North end.