City and MGM Springfield officials declared a milestone had been reached in the development of the region’s first resort casino.
The design work on what is now a $960 million project is 95 percent complete with city officials accepting the plans and declaring the development as “high quality, attractive and innovative.”
Officials with the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development and consultants spent months reviewing the plans and negotiating changes with MGM before accepting the design plans that include building materials, landscaping, signage, exterior lighting and the location of amenities such as a daycare center and cinema.
As a result of the design document being accepted, Mayor Domenic Sarno said MGM is in full compliance with the city’s Host Community Agreement.
" MGM has been a very good corporate citizen," Sarno declared at Wednesday's announcement. " They continue to provide Springfield with vibrancy, economic development, job creation, excitement, and entertainment."
The project, which includes a gaming floor, a 250-room hotel, seven-story parking garage and ancillary buildings, is taking place on a 13-acre site in downtown Springfield. Construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, but MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said an opening date for the casino has not been set.
"Part of our brand announcement will be to create excitement around that ( opening date)," said Mathis
MGM is still selecting retail tenants.
" You're going to hear some announcements in the coming days and months about that," Mathis told reporters Wednesday.
Mathis said the latest design includes an expanded poker room, more space devoted to table games and fewer slot machines.
" We are just reacting to the market and doing what is smart for the business," explained Mathis.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is scheduled to meet in Springfield Thursday and receive a progress report on the MGM casino.
The city of Northampton will ask the casino industry regulators Thursday for $100,000 to help offset the impact of the Springfield casino.
Mayor David Narkewicz said the money, if approved by the gaming commission, would be used to create a marketing and advertising plan to attract MGM Springfield casino visitors to Northampton.
"We want people to know they could do a day trip to Northampton, or maybe spend a weekend in Northampton and go down to the casino as part of their visit," explained Narkewicz.
A study the city commissioned in 2013 estimated spending could be reduced at Northampton businesses by between $4 million-$8 million once the casino opens in Springfield.
" The concern remains for me and that is why we are going at this and trying to mitigate it with the funds available from the gaming commission," said Narkewicz.
The money Northampton has applied for would come from a special mitigation fund the state’s casino license holders were required to pay into, and not from taxpayers.