Mohegan Sun, which once had the western Massachusetts casino landscape all to itself, has unveiled a dramatic new design and more amenities for the project it hopes to build in rural Palmer. Mohegan Sun is facing stiff completion from MGM Resorts and Hard Rock International for the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts.
Mohegan Sun officials unveiled a new architectural design for the casino project that features buildings with sharp angles made of stone, glass and metal. Officials say this design better fits the topography—a wooded hill overlooking the town of Palmer. In addition to a 250,000 square foot casino, there are two hotels with a total of 550 rooms, 300,000 square feet for retail development, a conference center, outdoor pavilion, and an indoor and outdoor water park.
The project will cost nearly $1 billion, which Mohegan CEO Mitchell Etess said is a larger investment than what is being proposed by the competition, MGM and Hark Rock.
Mohegan Sun presented its new plans at a public meeting in Palmer attended by more than 100 people. Although Mohegan Sun has been cultivating a casino development in the town for more than four years it has kept project specifics close to the vest until now.
Etess said details of a development agreement that is being negotiated with town officials will be announced in two weeks followed by a voter referendum in September. Local voter approval of a casino project is a prerequisite for seeking a casino license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Mohegan Sun originally said the casino would have a railroad theme in a nod to Palmer’s history as a rail center, but that design has been abandoned in favor of one that the company believes is more spectacular. Eugene Kohn, chairman of the architectural firm working on the project, Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, said he envisions the casino as a natural extension of the hillside where it would be built.
Kohn said the buildings will have the latest conservation features and the design will preserve many of the existing trees on the property.
Traffic remains a top concern with people who attended the meeting Monday night. Paul Brody, the project coordinator for Mohegan Sun said three access proposals have been presented to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and he expects a decision by this fall on which option will be pursued. The company favors a so-called flyover ramp to the property from the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike.
Robert Young, who heads a pro-casino business group in Palmer, said he hopes state gaming regulators will realize the so-called “casino in the woods” option is the preferred choice over the urban casino competitors MGM in Springfield and Hard Rock in West Springfield.
Mohegan Sun officials say the casino will result in roughly 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs. Those numbers are similar to the employment projections by both MGM and Hard Rock.