MGM Casino: the Tower Is Not the ‘Wow’


Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby has been off the mark with his comments a few times since his group began its work nearly three years ago. OK, more than a few; actually, much more.

But he was on the money — figuratively and perhaps literally as well — with his remarks when he was asked by the local press whether MGM’s planned downtown Springfield casino had lost its ‘wow’ factor with the announcement that the company is proposing, amid spiraling construction costs, to ditch its plans to erect a 25-story hotel tower and instead opt for a six-story facility to be built on the corner of Main and Howard streets.

“The wow factor is such a subjective thing,” he told the press, noting that, with this change of plans, MGM could be trading off the ‘wow’ from the tower with gains from increased street activity and other factors.

What we were hoping he would say is that the ‘wow’ that this state and the people of Springfield are hoping for comes not from a glitzy hotel, but from an enterprise that can create thousands of good jobs, bring more visitors and conventions to the region, be an important piece of the larger downtown revitalization puzzle, and, more importantly, be profitable (and therefore sustainable) for many decades.

If the casino can do all that, then we’ll all be, well, wowed.

Does MGM Springfield need a 25-story hotel with colored glass to do that? Perhaps, but don’t forget that there are several now-shuttered casinos along the boardwalk in Atlantic City that had taller towers, plenty of glitz, gobs of glamor, and no shortage of ‘wow,’ at least the superficial kind.

Let’s get back to that in a minute. First, a few words about design and that planned tower.

Yes, design is very important when it comes to casinos. They must have a certain amount of style — although many of the thousands of visitors getting off and then back on buses pulled up to the front door each day, and who won’t ever see the lobby of the hotel, will hardly notice the appointments.

After all, one of this casino’s main challenges will be to lure away some of those who have been going to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun for years, places where there is plenty of glitz and ‘wow,’ as hyped in those commercials referring to the “wonder of it all.”

And it will also have to compete with a billion-dollar casino to be built by Steve Wynn in Everett that promises a tower — two of them, in fact, according to the latest plans — and a good deal of ‘wow.’

Meanwhile, locally, many people were looking upon that planned tower as a chance to alter and enhance (although the latter is a subjective term to be sure) a Springfield skyline that has remained the same for nearly 30 years, a sad reminder of just how much the city stagnated for years.

We can collectively mourn or regret the loss of the tower in the plans for this casino — if that’s what eventually happens; negotiations are ongoing — but we suggest that the more prudent measure is to keep the focus on the much bigger picture of creating a casino that provides what’s really important: sustainability, jobs, increased tourism and convention business, and, overall, more vibrancy.

MGM can do all that without building an elevator that goes to the 25th floor. It can do it by creating positive experiences for the many types of visitors it will attract, and this, more than anything else, is what MGM is promising.

And it is that component of the plan — that ingredient in the formula for ‘wow’ — that can’t be taken out.

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