Excitement builds as MGM Springfield gets ready to open doors

Updated August 23, 2018 - 7:35 pm

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — Powerwashers scrubbed the sidewalks and workers added finishing touches Thursday to MGM Resorts International’s newest casino resort, MGM Springfield.

Nevada’s largest casino industry employer is preparing to enter the lucrative New England market when the doors of its $960 million property open Friday at 11 a.m., local time.

A parade of MGM Springfield employees, construction workers and local dignitaries to be led through downtown by the Budweiser Clydesdales will herald the opening of the six-story, 250-room boutique hotel and its 125,000-square-foot casino with 120 table games and 2,550 slot machines.

MGM Springfield doesn’t look like a traditional Vegas casino from the outside, deferring to Springfield’s industrial roots and keeping the appearance closer to the community’s historic fabric.

Glitz

MGM and its real estate partner, Paul Picknelly, transported other historic buildings to the four square blocks of the MGM campus. The 131-year-old deconsecrated First Spiritual Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now a Kringle Candle outlet.

While the casino floor is filled of slot machine glitz, the interior also includes an homage to Indian motorcycles, once manufactured in Springfield.

There’s also an art piece by New York artist Mia Pearlman that is a tribute to Springfield’s resilience after a tornado ripped through the community on June 1, 2011.

Several gathering places pay tribute to other MGM properties. Among them are the Aria and Bellagio ballrooms and the Borgata room and the Beau Rivage boardroom.

Customers can think Las Vegas when they park their cars in the seven-level garage with place names to help guests remember where they’re parked. Levels are named for The Mirage, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus. There also are levels named for Gold Strike (Tunica, Mississippi) and National Harbor (Oxon Hill, Maryland).

A 600-pound MGM lion welcomes guests at the front entrance to the casino.

Anticipating a massive crowd of thousands of curious onlookers, the company is providing a free shuttle and parking from an offsite lot for 26 straight hours beginning Friday morning.

Several roads around the resort will be closed Friday to provide better access for shuttles and ride-share vehicles.

Dignitaries delivered remarks Thursday afternoon punctuated by brief performances by Blue Man Group and dance crew Jabbawockeez.

Promises

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, an early skeptic of the project, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, a supporter from the start, offered congratulations to the MGM team.

MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren thanked the leaders for the accolades and quoted one of Springfield’s favorite sons, Dr. Seuss author Ted Geisel, in his remarks of appreciation.

“‘If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy. They just promised it would be worth it.’” Murren said. “Springfield, you took a chance. I promise it will be worth it.”

MGM Springfield is Massachusetts’ second casino after Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming opened a slot-machine parlor at Plainridge Park harness racing track in 2015, but the first casino hotel resort of its kind in the state.

MGM is expecting to draw customers from Hartford, Connecticut; Albany, New York; Providence, Rhode Island — all within 150 miles — and Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts.

The property would compete immediately with two big tribal casinos in Connecticut, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, some 75 miles away.

It is the first of two Massachusetts resorts to be opened by Las Vegas-based companies. Wynn Resorts Ltd. is on track to open its $2.5 billion Encore Boston Harbor in 2019.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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