SPRINGFIELD, MA—Several tornadoes hit the New England area in 2011, decimating numerous parts of the city here. Now, seven years later, MGM Springfield, the region’s first integrated luxury resort, has opened—despite economic difficulties over the years.
“When the MGM Resorts team first visited Springfield, the damage from the tornado was still fresh,” said MGM Springfield GM Alex Dixon. “Inspired by the legacy of Springfield, MGM Resorts wanted to invest in the revival of this great American city.”
Made up of six states—Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island—New England provides the global hospitality and entertainment company with access to several of the region’s top cities. “Its location is within easy driving distance of a number of population centers, including Hartford, Boston and Albany, and it’s surrounded by some of the country’s most prestigious universities,” said Anton Nikodemus, COO of regional operations at MGM Resorts. “When the state of Massachusetts legalized gaming in 2011, we knew Springfield was exactly where we wanted to be if we were awarded a license.”
While the New England expansion made sense from a business standpoint, the move also impacted MGM’s executives personally.
“We have a number of executives, including our chairman and CEO Jim Murren, who grew up just across the river in Connecticut,” Nikodemus said. “Jim has fond memories of spending time in Springfield as a young man and was personally interested in its revitalization after the economic downturn and devastating tornado of 2011.”
Before choosing a new development location, MGM Resorts considers several factors. “For our casino properties, we are, of course, focused on jurisdictions where commercial gaming will be or has recently been introduced,” Nikodemus said. “A stable regulatory market that has accepted gaming is key.”
The hospitality and entertainment company also examines marketplace conditions before developing new properties in new regions.
“We seek to develop in areas where our investment can help to build up the community,” he said. “We seek to complement the business environment, not compete with existing outlets, and as we have done in Springfield, National Harbor and Detroit, we focus on locations where we can partner with local entities to make a great impact in new job creation and serve as a driver of tourism to those destinations.”
Covering three city blocks, MGM Springfield, which combines new construction with revived historic buildings, has a six-story hotel tower with 252 rooms, including 16 suites; 125,000 sq. ft. of gaming space; a full-service spa; retail stores; an array of new-to-market F&B spots; a 19th century armory, which has been restored and repurposed for event space; a Regal luxury cinema, which opened in September; 10 bowling lanes; and an outdoor plaza offering year-round events, art displays and more.
“Entering Springfield has allowed us to introduce MGM Resorts International to an entirely new market,” Nikodemus said. “It gave us the opportunity to expand the reach of M life Rewards, our loyalty program, and provide the region an entrée into the company and our various brands, not just in Las Vegas but throughout the country. It also deepened the bench of our offerings in an exciting way.”
To date, MGM has already invested more than $960 million in the property. “We’ve also promised more than $25 million in annual payments to the City of Springfield for 40-plus years, which will total $1 billion,” Dixon said. The Las Vegas-based company has committed to spend an additional $50 million with regional business partners, too.
“With this resort set to become a significant tourism driver for the city, our challenge was to create a property that showcased MGM Resorts’ notable hospitality and entertainment amenities, while also developing an experience that would be unique and honor Springfield,” he said. “I believe we did just that.”
Unlike other MGM properties, MGM Springfield embodies the city’s rich historic and literary culture. “The property takes adaptive-reuse to the next level—preserving numerous architectural landmarks, such as the 19th century Massachusetts National Guard Armory and salvaging gems such as a stained-glass rotunda from the city’s old United Electric Building,” he said. “From recasting the former Chandler Hotel, which once hosted Presidents Polk and Buchanan, into a sophisticated steak house, to restoring a high-gothic-style church, the development thoughtfully merged new-build with historic architecture, with an end product that is distinctly Springfield.”
The end goal of the project was to make MGM Springfield different from anything Las Vegas—or Massachusetts—has seen before.
Well-known creative and industrial minds from Springfield also inspired MGM Resorts’ design team, including Dr. Seuss, Milton Bradley, Rolls-Royce and Emily Dickinson.
“We are proud of its neighborhood ties, including more than 1,000 jobs that are now held by local Springfield residents, and partnerships with local businesses, such as Hannoush Jewelers and Indian Motorcycle,” Dixon said. “We also took great care to develop an open-air plaza as you might find at the core of most American cities.”
MGM Springfield expects many of its guests will hail from states in the Northeast, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.
“With the 2016 opening of MGM National Harbor in Maryland and the recent opening of MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, MGM Resorts has made a considerable investment to establish a powerful presence in the northeastern U.S.,” Nikodemus said. “In combination with MGM Grand Detroit and Borgata Hotel & Spa in Atlantic City, these new resorts provide great experiences in the region for tens of millions of M life Rewards members to enjoy closer to home.”
In total, MGM Resorts has 27 properties worldwide and more than 100 entertainment offerings. The hospitality and gaming company also recently opened MGM Cotai in Macau, China, and unveiled the first international Bellagio-branded hotel in Shanghai.
“In addition, the company is furthering its regional presence with recently announced acquisition agreements for Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield, OH, and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, NY, as well as a proposed resort project in Bridgeport, CT,” he said. “When operational under MGM Resorts management, these developments will serve to continue the company’s broadening East Coast presence and offering.” HB