Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno plans to begin negotiations today with the two casino companies competing for development rights. Top executives from MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming gave assurances at a public forum on Monday that their projects will not cause monumental traffic problems.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he appreciates that two world class developers are each prepared to invest up to $1 billion dollars for economic development in downtown Springfield.
The mayor , with help from his advisors and consultants, will negotiate a development contract, known as a host community agreement. The final agreement must be approved in a voter referendum before a casino operator can seek a license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Two other companies are expected to seek the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts. Mohegan Sun has proposed a casino in Palmer and Hard Rock International wants to build one on part of the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield
As part of the city of Springfield’s casino competition there was a public forum Monday where the developers presented updated traffic plans and also talked about how their projects would impact non-gambling entertainment. It was attended by about 200 people.
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murran said a traffic plan has been crafted to mitigate any problems that might arise as a result of his company’s planned $800 million dollar project in the south end of downtown Springfield.
A study commissioned for MGM said most traffic to and from the casino will be on weekends and nights and outside of normal commuting times. Ken Rosevear, a development specialist for MGM said there are plans to widen some streets, change traffic signals, put up new traffic signs, and make the casino very assessable by foot.
Both MGM and Penn National plan to operate a trolley that will connect their casinos to other hotels and tourists destinations. Penn CEO Peter Carlino said their proposed Hollywood branded casino in the north end of downtown is just a short walk to Union Station, which is undergoing a multi million dollar renovation.
Penn has dropped plans for an enclosed skywalk between the casino and Union Station.
James Baum, a senior vice president for Penn, said 90 percent of the cars headed to the casino will arrive in Springfield on an interstate highway and signs will be installed to guide people from the correct exit straight to the casino entrance
Penn has struck a deal with the non-profit owners of the Paramount Theatre to renovate the historic building, and to bring in entertainers from a variety of musical genres. Jay Snowden, a vice president with Penn pledged the company would not compete with or cannibalize local entertainment venues.
MGM President Bill Hornbuckle said the company has agreed to promote or sponsor 12 shows a year at the state owned MassMutual civic center, Symphony Hall and CityStage theater.
The two casino operators took part in a public forum last December when they presented their initial plans to an audience of about 400 people. A third forum is planned for the developers to address the issue of public safety.