ith nearly $1 billion spent ahead of the MGM Springfield casino grand opening, it's fair to say MGM Resorts International has already rolled the dice on the city. And in exactly one month, the company will begin to play its hand to ensure a return on its investment.
MGM Springfield has already hired more than 3,000 employees, and construction crews are finishing the interior details of the $960 million project. With progress continuing each day, MGM Springfield's team is preparing for opening day, Aug. 24.
The grand opening celebration is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors to the city over the course of the opening weekend, as the public gets its first look inside the state's first full-service casino.
"We're putting final touches on restaurants and retail stores. And we're training hundreds of employees as to what it means to work for MGM, when we say 'welcome to the show,'" said Saverio Mancini, MGM Springfield's director of communications. "We also have hundreds of employees here on the property who are in the middle of their on-site training. We have chefs and cooks practicing on various menu items, and employees are testing the food and the procedures around the service. We are still walking around with hard hats, but it's a very exciting time."
MGM Springfield will feature a 250-room hotel, new restaurants and places to get a drink, new places to shop, a dine-in luxury Regal Cinemas theater, and a 3,400-spot parking garage right off the highway, which will be free of charge for anyone looking to come to downtown Springfield.
MGM Springfield reveals that new 3,400 space parking garage will be free to patrons and the public Among the new places to grab a bite to eat are:
Cal Mare, an Italian restaurant spearheaded by award-winning celebrity chef Michael Mina
The Chandler Steakhouse, located in the former Union House Hotel on Main Street, which will be helmed by Hell's Kitchen season 14 winner Meghan Gill
The TAP Sports Bar, which will include a 10-lane bowling alley, an arcade, a beer garden, and feature Springfield-inspired foods
Wicked Noodles, a pan-Asian restaurant
Jack's Lobster Shack, offering lobster rolls and New England-style clam chowder
Bill's Diner, described as an all-American eatery
The Hearth Grill, which is slated to offer healthier options
The South End Market, which will include a wine and cheese bar as well as a gelato and espresso counter
"When our doors open, guests will find a resort that blurs the line between food and entertainment, and we can't wait for everyone to see what we've been working on," said MGM Springfield Vice President of Food & Beverage Anthony Caratozzolo. "We set out to design a destination where guests will feel comfortable, return frequently and be able to enjoy different amenities each time, from casual lunches to celebratory dinners."
For those looking to gamble, gaming options will include a 125,000-square-foot gaming floor with 2,550 slot machines, 120 gaming tables, a poker room and high-limit VIP gaming area.
On Monday, the company launched a multimedia advertising campaign throughout the Northeast aimed at creating a buzz ahead of the grand opening. It featured scenes of the Springfield skyline, with MGM-themed action, including the trademark lion, making its way across the Memorial Bridge.
"With this campaign, we are marking the grand arrival of an unparalleled experience from dining and entertainment to nightlife and gaming," said Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield. "Each component is meant to capture the energy of the resort and showcase the 'wow' moments guests will encounter throughout the destination."
And throughout the 14.5-acre campus, there will be significant nods to the rich culture and history of Springfield and all of Western Massachusetts.
The exterior of the property has facades and facade recreations of the buildings that once stood there, thanks to the efforts of the Springfield Historical Commission under former Chairman Ralph Slate.
The hotel rooms were designed to feature various aspects of Springfield's history, including historical building facades framing the windows, reclaimed wood tables in the Garden and Spa Suites made from trees that once stood on what was Bliss Street, and a chandelier made of vintage hats, inspired by Dr. Seuss, in the Presidential Suite.
For Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, the largest commercial development in the region's history nearing completion is indicative of a wave of successes he hopes to help the city build upon going forward.
"Like many urban centers in America, there's been a 'chip on our shoulders,'" he said. "My administration has worked tirelessly to reinvent/redefine our city - to move away from, 'what do you expect, its Springfield' to now, 'why not Springfield!' We continue to accomplish this goal."
"I will continue to work hard to build on this momentum and harness this energy to spur, not only more confidence and belief in our Springfield, but just as important, more business and neighborhood development investment too. It's an exciting time for our city," Sarno said.
The project has been years and millions of dollars in the making. Back in 2011, after the Legislature and then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act, allowing for up to three casinos and a slots parlor in the commonwealth, MGM Resorts International already had its sights set on Massachusetts.
With MGM's first public pitch coming as a resort casino in Brimfield, the company soon shifted its focus to the third-largest city in the state, as it competed with Mohegan Sun in Palmer, Hard Rock International in West Springfield, as well as Penn National Gaming and Ameristar in Springfield, for the sole Western Massachusetts casino license.
In 2012, Ameristar pulled out of the running, leaving only MGM and Penn National to compete. Ameristar had already spent millions clearing much of the the former Westinghouse Electric site off of Interstate 391, paving the way for the CRRC rail car factory, which created around 60 new jobs and is still growing.
Votes on the host community agreements in Palmer and West Springfield both failed, prompting the exit of the respective interested casino companies from the region, and Penn National eventually landed the license to build the Plainridge Park Casino slots parlor in Plainville.
MGM inked a lucrative host community agreement with Springfield, which city voters approved, 58 percent to 42 percent, on July 16, 2013.
It seemed like full-steam ahead until a 2014 ballot question that would have repealed the expanded gaming law. But that vote went in favor of the casino companies, allowing for MGM Springfield to begin construction.
In one month, the hurdles MGM faced to bring the project to fruition will fade into the city's history as the hooves of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses make their way down Main Street for the grand opening parade. And what happens after that will be up to the patrons who pass through the company's doors, the public, the economy and, of course, chance.