State and local officials gathered today at the construction site of the MGM casino in Springfield to mark a milestone in the project, the relocation of a 129-year-old church.
By the time a 20 minute speaking program wrapped up, the red brick High Victorian Gothic Church resting atop steel girders with wheels had slowly been turned almost 90 degrees and was off on a daylong trip to a new location roughly 200 yards away.
" Amen," said Rev. John Sullivan , who became pastor of the First Spiritualist Church in 1987. He applauded MGM for preserving the church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
" I think it is a memorable occasion in the sense we are watching a building that could have been demolished now moved and hopefully restored properly," he said.
The congregation sold their place of worship to MGM in 2013 and went to a location in Chicopee. The church sat on what will become the gambling floor in the $950 million casino. Moving the church cost $800,000.
Wolfe House and Building Movers was contracted to do the job.
To prepare for the move, workers spent about a month bracing the interior of the church. A hydraulic jacking system was used to lift the entire structure steadily to avoid damage to the masonry. The church was placed on a proprietary dolly with remote controlled coasters to slowly roll it to its new location.
The church and dolly together weigh about 500 tons, according to construction supervisor Bill Mullen.
" This actually a fairly generic move for the company that is doing this, Wolfe construction," said Mullen. " This is not one of the biggest buildings they've ever moved nor is it one of the more complex moves."
Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Bruce Stebbins called the relocation of the church an “impressive milestone.”
" This shows MGM's commitment to the project. The project is moving forward. It is great to see a lot of folks employed on the construction site. It shows MGM's attention to detail on the entire project."
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said moving the church to make way for the casino shows economic development and historic preservation can co-exist.
Under an agreement with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which took almost a year to negotiate and finalize, MGM, besides moving the church, has incorporated the facades of several other structures into the design of the casino.
The future of the relocated church is not as a place of worship, but most likely a location for retail, according to Brian Packer, MGM Springfield’s vice president of construction and development.
" The rear of the church will bookend our new entertainment complex, especially the outdoor spaces, the market and ice skating rink," said Packer.
MGM has now demolished most of the buildings on the 14.5 acre site where the casino will be built and plans to begin pouring concrete foundations this summer.
The casino is scheduled to open to the public in September 2018.