Imagine a grand casino building with a promenade deck to its side and an overly spacious parking garage to its rear. 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. All that’s missing is golden confetti showering the roads and colorful fireworks bursting in the distance, or is it? Either way, MGM won’t make a subtle entrance in September 2018.
In 2012, four different casino companies started the battle for the space in the south end of downtown Springfield. After voters accepted the building of a casino in their city, MGM beat out the other three competitors and so began the next two-year process. Referendums were thrown every which way to both the city and the state of Massachusetts for approvals, and two years later, 2014 was the golden year when they all returned with that “Approved” stamp.
“The mayor selected them (MGM), the city council had to approve them and the residents had to approve them,” explained Springfield College business professor Tim Allen, who also is a member of the Springfield City Council. “I think it passed in Springfield 58 to 42 [in] July of 2014.”
In the upcoming months, land usage for all of the casino’s embellishments had to be approved by the council, but by late January and February 2016, construction was under way behind the beloved Red Rose Pizzeria.
“So for this year, let’s say from February to November, it has been a process of taking down existing buildings preserving some buildings that are going to become part of the casino development, and then starting the construction process,” said Allen.
As the process continues, there are minor check-ins for approvals with the city council, such as the sign approval that happened last month.
A major aspect of bringing the casino to Springfield was to not only create more business in the city, but also to create jobs. MGM planned to have 2,000 workers for the construction process join their team in building the main areas like the casino building, the garage, and the promenade that will hold much of the family-friendly entertainment.
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.
“Once MGM opens, a lot more people will be coming to Springfield. Hopefully there’ll be other spin-off businesses,” said Allen. “That’s the idea. If you make Springfield a destination city, then other stuff comes.”
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.
“The theory is that it will be an attractive place to go regardless if you gamble. It could be a place you could go with your family on a Friday night,” noted Allen.
Though the casino age in Massachusetts is 21, since attractions outside the casino itself are family-oriented, residents under that age can still enjoy the property. For the current sophomore class, 2018 marks the year many of them will be 21, but that doesn’t mean the appeal of ice rinks, bowling alleys, and movie theaters change that much.
Sophomores Chris Apicelli and Reef Rogers hadn’t known about all the extra amenities before and it certainly sparked their interest.
“Hell yeah I’m going to go! That’s all I need to say,” said an enthusiastic Rogers. Apicelli added, “We’re going to be 21 right when it opens, so that’s going to change our perspective a little, but I’m pretty pumped for this actually.”
MGM Resorts is known for their extravagant hotels, casinos and resorts that seem almost untouchable by other smaller companies.
“I live near Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods so I can go to both of them within a 20-minute drive and they’re both really fun,” said Apicelli. “But I’m not really sure if they will compare to this ice skating rink.”
As the scheduled opening of the casino is just under two years away, there is still a lot of work to be done, but just the knowledge of its expectancy has already benefited the city enormously as other businesses prepare for its inauguration. Current students who enjoy friendly city entertainment have quite the space to look forward to, and perhaps alumni may just have to return to see what it’s all about.