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New casino resort in Springfield means jackpot for the 413
A VIP preview party took place on the eve of the August 24 opening of MGM Springfield, which covers three city blocks in the heart of downtown.
Photo by Anastasia Stanmeyer
MGM Resorts International set out to “Wow the World” with its late-August opening of MGM Springfield, the Commonwealth’s first destination casino-resort. The project, more than seven years in the making, has breathed new life into the 413 area, devastated by a deadly tornado that tore through town in June 2011.
The property, a whopping two million square feet of development spanning 14 acres across three downtown city blocks, is far more than a casino. It boasts a 250-room hotel, spa, and local retailers—including Kringle Candle and Hannoush Jewelers—in addition to a diverse food and beverage portfolio. Think destination birthday parties at either the ten-lane bowling alley and arcade or eight-screen luxury movie theater. In addition, an outdoor entertainment plaza—with the iconic 19th-century U.S. National Guard Armory at its center—will be a destination unto itself for seasonal programming that ranges from summer concerts to winter ice-skating.
MGM’s arrival, despite the controversy in its wake, has “spurred a tremendous amount of economic development,” according to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. Roughly 3,000 jobs have been created in the fields of operations of the property, hospitality, gaming, and tourism—1,000 of which are held by Springfield residents. This stands to anchor the rebirth of the city and the whole of western Massachusetts.
Now that MGM Springfield has opened its doors for business, will Berkshire County feel the ripple effects?
“I have always believed that if done right, expanded gaming can create jobs, generate new revenue, and spur economic growth in
every region of the Commonwealth,” said then-Governor Deval Patrick in November 2011 after signing the Expanded Gaming Act into law, legislation designed to provide significant benefits to the Commonwealth by advancing job creation and economic development. Regardless of where individuals stand on the subject of casinos and gambling, Massachusetts might just be in a position to hit the proverbial jackpot. Increased tourist traffic to the region along with steep taxes on gross gaming revenue could mean good things for the Berkshires.
“We are optimistic that it will draw additional activity to our region,” says Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, who has looked closely at the development of MGM Springfield for more than four years. Butler, at the helm of an organization aimed at growing and diversifying the audience drawn to the unique region that is the Berkshires, is expecting the impact of MGM to contribute to that effort. “It makes sense to assume that some of this traffic will extend into our region,” he says.
Butler notes that while MGM has a “massive visitor following,” it attracts a different audience than the typical visitor to the Berkshires. It is a narrow corridor between Lee and Springfield, roughly 40 miles on I-90, and this proximity—coupled with a concentration of attractive lodging and cultural and recreational experiences—stands to entice gamers to further explore the area west of Springfield, which, as Butler puts it, is really “right down the road.”
Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, cited a promise to support local businesses throughout the Commonwealth, including those owned by women and minorities, as “a tradition worth keeping going for a very long time.” The diversity and inclusion of area vendors—some from the Berkshires—was integral to MGM’s vision for a destination that celebrates the Spirit of Springfield.
Chris Weld, of Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Sheffield, is one such local vendor. “They are representing most of our line,” says Weld, whose partnership with MGM includes the development of a custom-blend ethereal gin, an MGM single-barrel rum, and an orange-forward custom bitters, all of which are featured on the drink menus at the Knox Bar and the Commonwealth Bar—creative monikers that reflect the rich history of the region. “I’m duly impressed at how willing they were to work with local vendors, and I’m excited to have such a world-renowned anchor in our region,” says Weld of MGM’s arrival to the 413.
MGM’s corporate-brand campaign cuts straight to the chase: “Humans were not meant to be bored.” Regardless of one’s stance on gaming, it’s not a stretch to connect the dots between MGM’s presence in Springfield and its capacity to contribute to the economic growth of the Berkshires.
“MGM has expressed a real desire to develop a relationship with the Berkshires that can be mutually beneficial,” says 1Berkshire’s Butler. “We’re confident this will happen.”
Photo: Opening day, Gov. Charles Baker: "This is a big day."
The Berkshire Run
Berkshire residents can hitch a ride with MGM Springfield Line Runs, offered by King Ward, which gets visitors to the resort safely and efficiently. The Thursday daytripper costs $20 round trip from Adams, Pittsfield, and Lee. And MGM Springfield is obligated, in an agreement with the city, to present shows at Symphony Hall & CityStage and at Mass Mutual Center. On the heels of a sold-out Stevie Wonder concert in September, here are some upcoming highlights:
Stand-up comedian and actor Felipe Esparza performs at Symphony Hall.
“The Comedy Get Down” features Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, George Lopez and D.L. Hughley at The MassMutual Center.
Cher brings her “Here We Go Again” tour to Mass Mutual. Cher, 72, the subject of a new musical, recently appeared in the film Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again and has released a new album “Dancing Queen.”