UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Developers of the Mohegan Sun hotel-casino in southeastern Connecticut seem to have hit the sweet spot between paying homage to the past while looking toward future opportunity.
The property is intricately adorned with tributes to the Mohegan Indian Tribe — “the Wolf People” — while building on conventions and meetings and the popularity of sports.
And the public has taken notice. The 1,600 hotel rooms operate at about 96 percent occupancy — and that is down from previous years, according to President and General Manager Ray Pineault.
Competing with the larger Foxwoods hotel-casino operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe about 20 minutes away,
Mohegan Sun will face new competitive pressures with last month’s opening of MGM Springfield in Massachusetts and next June’s planned opening of Encore Boston Harbor.
But Pineault believes his resort will compete well because of all the amenities it has.
“We have 1,600 hotel rooms, we have shopping, we have dining, we have a spa, we obviously have a full casino floor,” Pineault said during a tour of the property.
“We have our Expo Center, which recently has been opened. We have brand names ranging from Bobby Flay to Chick-fil-A,” he said. “We have close to 5,000 slot machines, over 280 table games, a poker room, a nightclub. Virtually anything that you want to do for a weekend away and just relaxation.”
Pineault says he would put his staff up against anyone in the industry.
“Our team is the best team in the business and we focus on it every day,” Pineault said. “When they’re leaving here, we want them telling a story and it’s got to be a good story. We never pretend that we’re perfect, but it’s how we make up for our mistakes. A lot of times, our guests want to hear us apologize and our team is fantastic at delivering that A service.
Located on the banks of the Thames River on the forested 240-acre reservation, Mohegan Sun’s best suites, including the 4,200-square-foot Royal Suite, have beautiful views of southern Connecticut’s foothill landscape. Every hotel room is equipped with an iPad.
When guests are indoors — just about every amenity is connected with climate-controlled corridors — there are reminders about the tribal heritage and its connection with the land.
A centerpiece attraction off the main hotel lobby is “River Blue,” a 10,000-pound glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly, the artist who created the multicolored glass ceiling piece at the front desk of Bellagio in Las Vegas. The 2,500 blown-glass pieces were assembled at the base of Taughannick Falls, a 55-foot indoor waterfall representing a treacherous crossing of converging waters during the tribe’s migration.
A corridor connecting the lobby with property’s new 400-room Earth Tower and the Event Center has displays about Mohegan culture.
The 240,000-square-foot Event Center, which opened in June, has 15 conventions or meetings on its calendar and is expected to bolster Mohegan Sun as a convention facility. The center already has hosted a Barrett Jackson car event and TerrifiCon, a ComiCon spinoff.
Mohegan Sun has borrowed some attributes out of the Las Vegas playbook and was even a little ahead of Las Vegas on tie-ins with professional sports.
The 12,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena at the resort is home to the WNBA Connecticut Sun basketball team and the National Lacrosse League New England Black Wolves. It’s also a venue for big entertainment performances.
NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan has a sports bar and two restaurants among the more than 40 retail outlets that include Victoria’s Secret, Coach and Tommy Bahama within the casino complex.