The latest plans by MGM Resorts International for building a casino in Springfield will be carefully scrutinized in the next few weeks by local officials and Massachusetts gaming industry regulators. The public will also have opportunities to comment.
The city of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development has announced it has received a complete site plan application for the MGM casino project triggering a 30-day internal review and setting the stage for a public hearing by the city council within 45 days.
A site plan application filed with the city by MGM Springfield in October was rejected by the city’s planning office as “incomplete.” MGM submitted additional information and fielded questions about the plan from city officials at a public presentation on Nov.18th.
Philip Dromey, Springfield’s deputy director of planning, said city officials with the help of hired consultants are prepared for their due diligence with MGM.
" It is time to get to the nuts and bolts of this, and to get the site plan approved by the city council and get the shovels in the ground" said Dromy. "
There have been a number of changes to the design of the casino project since MGM was awarded a license to build it by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in June 2014. Most startling is the proposed elimination of a 25-story glass façade hotel. MGM officials say a six-story hotel, also with 250 rooms, will be more economical to build and will be a better fit with the surrounding architecture.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has endorsed the new design for the hotel.
" This is a much much better design," said Sarno
Sarno has vowed not to approve any changes to the casino project that would jeopardize the jobs, annual payments to the city, and other economic benefits MGM has promised.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis assures the promises will be kept.
" We remain committed to everything we campaigned for. That includes the largest private economic development project in Springfield's history, a billion dollars in payments to Springfield over four years, 3,000 jobs, 2,000 construction jobs, and a world-class resort." he said.
Springfield City Council President Mike Fenton has been critical of the recent design changes proposed by MGM and skeptical about the impact the changes will have on promised jobs and projected revenue.
" In order to win our ascent, MGM is going to have to demonstrate that they are providing other benefits above and beyond what was contracted for, " said Fenton.
Fenton has asked the city’s planning office to obtain additional information from MGM, including a construction timeline and a cost-savings analysis of the redesign, in preparation for public hearings that have been tentatively proposed for early January.
The five-member state gaming commission will hold a public hearing on the new MGM plans Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby has described the proposed changes as “significant.”
" Change in and of itself is not a bad thing," said Crosby. " If ( MGM) can maintain the same fundamental elements of the project at a price they can handle and the city can deal with then we are going to be fine with that," said Crosby
He said the commission will likely defer its decision on the proposed changes until after the mayor and city council act.
Although the new casino plans eliminate the 25-story hotel and shrink the total size of the project by about 10 percent, MGM officials say the project will cost $950 million, a $150 million increase over the original budget.
The city’s planning office has published details about the casino project on its website.