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MGM Springfield

Looking at His Reflection

Mike Mathis, seen here with Anita Bird

Mike Mathis, seen here with Anita Bird, assistant general manager of the Starbucks at MGM Springfield, says the $960 million initiative has gone from being a campaign and project to being an employer and operator.

When Mike Mathis rode down Main Street with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in the back of a Rolls-Royce (built in the city) on Aug. 24, it was the symbolic end to a journey that began nearly six years earlier. Or one stage of it, anyway. Indeed, Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield, made it clear that the journey continues, personally and professionally, as the casino works over the next few years to ‘hit its stride,’ as he put it.

Mike Mathis said there were so many high points during the journey to opening the $960 million MGM Springfield that he was having some trouble listing and ranking some that stood out above the others.

As for low points, well, he didn’t have any trouble at all with that assignment.

There was one stood out well above the others, and it brought with it some lessons — and humility — that served him well for the rest of the sojourn that climaxed on Aug. 24 when the resort casino opened, but is still very much ongoing.

It came in the fall of 2015 as the design of the casino, and, more specifically, its hotel, changed considerably — from a 25-story glass tower that would dominate the skyline to a five-story facility along Main Street that would blend in. And especially at a hastily arranged press conference to announce the change and the days that followed.

Mathis, named president and COO of MGM Springfield roughly a year and a half before that day, looked uncomfortable and quite defensive at that press conference, called after news of the design change leaked out in the local press and spurred a reaction he and others within the company were not prepared for after years of doing business in Las Vegas and other locales where such design changes aren’t really news, let alone confidence-shattering developments.

“Some of our naysayers took advantage of that and accused us of a bait and switch,” Mathis recalled. “Meanwhile, some of the folks that were more pessimistic about what our intentions were — despite years of goodwill I thought we had earned — seized on that moment.

“It was almost a condition of … this community had seen such a tough run that even some of our supporters thought that maybe MGM is too good to be true — the commitment is too good to be true — and used that change to say, ‘I told you so.’ That was challenging on many levels for me personally and the team.”

“It was almost a condition of … this community had seen such a tough run that even some of our supporters thought that maybe MGM is too good to be true — the commitment is too good to be true — and used that change to say, ‘I told you so,’” he went on. “That was challenging on many levels for me personally and the team.”

Elaborating, he said that he and his team members were all very visible in those days — and throughout the process — and some of those they greeted on the streets in the days following the announcement made their feelings known.

“I got a lot of personal flak on the streets, some of it not so gracious,” he recalled. “But that was a very small window and from a small majority, and that’s what I kept telling myself. And we weathered that storm, and we got the right information out. We didn’t handle it perfectly by any means, and I told the mayor that, but we got past it.”

Indeed, and on Aug. 24, Mathis and Mayor Domenic Sarno shared an energetic high-five as they opened the doors to the casino complex just before 11 a.m., capping a six-year journey that actually began in Brimfield, not Springfield, as some may recall.

Or at least the first part of the journey.

Mike Mathis says it takes two to three years for a facility like MGM Springfield to fully “ramp up.”

Mike Mathis says it takes two to three years for a facility like MGM Springfield to fully “ramp up.”

Building and opening the casino was obviously a long and difficult assignment, but it was just a step in the process, said Mathis, who told BusinessWest that MGM Springfield has gone from being a campaign and a project (one that officially ended on Aug. 24) to being an employer and an operator. And with that change, there are new responsibilities — for him and the team.

“That means thinking about the customer first, and everything flows from that,” he explained, adding that one of the things he’s most proud of to date is how the workforce, much of it without any experience working in gaming, has progressed. “There’s so much you can overcome in our industry with a positive attitude, and that’s been really gratifying to see.”

For this issue, BusinessWest talked with Mathis, clearly the face of MGM Springfield, about the journey he’s on — the parts have been completed and the ones still to come.

A Solid Bet

As noted earlier, when Mathis, then vice president of Global Gaming Operations for MGM’s hospitality division, first arrived on the scene in Western Mass. with the goal of helping the company win one of the coveted casino licenses in the Bay State, the focus wasn’t on Springfield, but tiny Brimfield.

That’s where Mathis, who described himself as the “MGM advance Massachusetts guy,” first touched down and commenced learning all about Massachusetts politics, zoning, and more.

Eventually, he and the team would learn some other things — primarily that a Turnpike exit needed to make a Brimfield casino happen was not in the cards, as they say in this business, and also that Brimfield residents weren’t very responsive to the idea of having a project of this scale in their proverbial backyard.

“We mistakenly thought, because they host the antiques fair a few times a year that brings in hundreds of thousands of people a year, that they would be receptive to this attraction,” he recalled. “What we learned is that they like that a few times a year — to let their town get taken over — but they weren’t looking for that 365 days a year.”

Mathis and the team at MGM would learn many other things in the weeks, months, and years to come, especially the fact that they were not in Las Vegas anymore, and that things move much more slowly in the Bay State.

They also learned a lot about Springfield, which, in the early going, was emerging as a competitor to Brimfield. And the more they learned, the more they came to like the city and understand that whichever proposal emerged from the City of Homes would be a formidable candidate for the Western Mass. license.

Fast-forwarding a little, by late 2013, MGM’s plan to place a resort casino in Springfield’s South End was the only Western Mass. proposal still on the table after voters in West Springfield and Palmer rejected casino referendums and officials in Springfield chose the MGM option over two others placed into contention.

But still the fight wasn’t over, as MGM had to withstand a statewide referendum bid to ban casinos in November 2014, which it did, when 59% of voters gave the go-ahead to commence the casino era.

All that was left now was to design and build the facility, staff it up, meet a host of conditions set by the city and the Mass. Gaming Commission, and eventually open the doors.

“I remember the humility of Jim Murren walking into his [Sarno’s] office and saying, ‘mayor, we do these all the time, but we want to make sure we understand what your goals are before we even think about what we want to do here.”

Mathis, of course, was involved in every step of the process, and he recalls it as the most challenging but ultimately rewarding experience in his career.

“Seeing crowds enjoy this product that we created out of thin air, and seeing it serviced by a bunch of my friends and supporters and volunteers that I’ve been with since we were knocking on doors back in 2012 and 2013 … that’s as good as it gets,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s been the highlight of my career.”

As he looks back on that process, dozens, if not hundreds, of memories float to the surface — from attending neighborhood council meetings across Springfield to working with volunteers to summon the votes to defeat the ballot initiative on gaming, to visiting the Springfield Armory with MGM Chairman Jim Murren to learn about city history and architecture, and especially the influence of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed not only Central Park in New York but Forest Park in Springfield.

And, yes, that uncomfortable press conference when the design change was announced.

Early on the in the process, when Mathis was still on the advance team and not yet the face of the project, he recalls watching senior-management members as they worked to develop a relationship with Springfield and its leaders — and learning from those experiences.

Mike Mathis and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno ride in style on opening day of MGM Springfield

Mike Mathis and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno ride in style on opening day of MGM Springfield — in a Rolls-Royce made in the city — at the symbolic end of a journey that began six years ago.   Getty Images

“My memory from those early days was how important it was for the chairman of our company to really understand what the mayor wanted,” he recalled. “I remember the humility of Jim Murren walking into his [Sarno’s] office and saying, ‘mayor, we do these all the time, but we want to make sure we understand what your goals are before we even think about what we want to do here.’”

All In

Actually, MGM doesn’t really do this all the time. It opened National Harbor in Maryland in late 2016, and another casino in Detroit a few years earlier. But it hasn’t opened many in this country, and hadn’t opened anything in the middle of an urban area like downtown Springfield.

So this was a pioneering effort in many ways, and for Mathis, who had previously done considerable work for the company overseas, in locales ranging from Singapore to Toronto, it was, quite obviously, a significant career stepping stone to be put in charge of it all.

To put that in perspective, he flashed back to the Gaming Commission session in early 2014 (he easily summoned the exact date, Jan. 24), when he was announced as the president of the project.

“There was a huge round of applause, and I recognized some of the voices in the audience saying ‘attaboy,’ and that was based on some of the relationships I had formed over the two years before that,” he recalled. “It was a special moment, and it really cemented for me how important this project was going to be for not just the company but the community, and they saw me as the face of it. And I thought that I owed them personally to deliver on the commitment; there was no way I was going to let these people down.”

He said the biggest challenges involved with coming to a new market like Massachusetts is understanding the local population’s experience with gaming, and its wants, needs, perceptions, and fears.

“We would go into neighborhood meetings and ask how many people had been to Las Vegas,” he recalled. “And not many had, and that told me that, to the extent that they know gaming, they know it in a regional way, and they don’t know some of the great things we do in Las Vegas, a lot of which is MGM.

“And that gives you some perspective on the group and the level of education you have to give them,” he went on. “Because I knew what the fear was — the fear was a slot box that would be cavernous and unimaginative and prey on the worst elements of the business. Overall, you have to identify with people on a very personal level and overcome some of the stereotypes people have from watching movies about what a casino operator is.”

Now that MGM Springfield is open, there’s been that shift he described, going from being a project to an operation. For him, the day-to-day is obviously much different, with a great deal of time spent on the casino floor.

“I view my role, especially in this early stage, as being quality assurance,” he explained. “I try to put on the eyes of the customer and walk through every space and observe every interaction.”

I do so with the mindset, ‘what is the customer experiencing, from the minute they enter our garage, or even further downstream — what are they experiencing as they travel on I-91 or the Turnpike?’” he went on. “‘What are they seeing for signage? What are they seeing in terms of access and traffic?’ These are all things I’m trying to see from their perspective.”

He said he will frequently engage patrons, asking them about their experience, their meal, and more. And many times, they’ll engage him because they recognize him from all those times he’s been in the news — and walking around the city, through the good times and the bad.

That’s when happens when you’re the face of the operation.

As for MGM Springfield as an operation, not a project, he said that, overall, it takes two to three years for a resort casino like this one to “hit its stride,” as he put it.

“That’s the typical ramp-up,” he went on. “There’s a lot of runway for us to do more business and more profitable business moving forward, especially as understand our staffing patterns, our peaks and valleys throughout the week and throughout the season, and what the customer wants and doesn’t want.”

Next Question

When asked what comes next for him — a prolonged stay in Springfield, a new assignment in another corner of the world, or something in between — Mathis said he really hasn’t had any time to think about that.

“The journey was amazing, and I’d be worried about trying to replicate it — if I could replicate it,” he explained. “This has been pretty unique, and it would be a mistake to think I could find another Springfield and do what we did here.”

And with that, he went back to the casino floor to engage customers and be engaged by them.

The journey has, indeed, been amazing, but in most all respects, this trip is far from over.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

MGM Springfield

For Starters…

Alex Dixon, seen here at MGM Springfield’s South End Market

Alex Dixon, seen here at MGM Springfield’s South End Market, says ‘normal’ isn’t something to expect at the facility for some time.

The long-awaited opening of MGM is now being talked about in the past tense. It was, as most everyone predicted it would be, a momentous event in the city’s history. But thanks to some careful planning, it was not the disruptive force that some were anticipating.

Alex Dixon came away with a few observations — and a few questions — after MGM Springfield’s first weekend of operation late last month.

In that latter category … well, he was wondering out loud if that fruity libation ‘Sex on the Beach’ is the official drink of Greater Springfield. It must be, he concluded, because the bars on the premises ran out of some or all of the ingredients needed to make it — vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice — so some people had to drink something else. And usually did.

But for a while, it was also a challenge to get something involving Coca Cola. “We ran out at one point,” said Dixon, general manager of the facility. “We managed to get some more, but we were out for a while.”

“We ran through so many different scenarios, and none of them came to be; we’re as excited for what happened as we are for what didn’t happen.”

As for observations … he said the company may have to take some steps to help some employees with their feet.

“We’re looking right now into getting some foot care for a lot of our employees,” he said several days after the opening. “People were on their feet more in the past 72 hours than they’ve been in a long time. So we’re looking to store some Epsom salts or some foot care, because people need to take care of their feet.”

OK, those were observations more of the tongue-in-cheek variety. Getting more serious — although he was quite serious about those foot problems — he said the long-awaited opening for MGM, meaning not just not opening day but those first several days, were noteworthy not just for what happened — huge crowds and general excitement for the region’s new, $960 million toy — but also for what didn’t happen.

And with that, Dixon summoned the contrived phrase ‘carmageddon.’ That’s not in the dictionary, but if it were, ‘gridlock’ would be listed as a synonym. Some people were predicting something approaching that, meaning Big E-like traffic jams and parking issues, during the first few days. Anxiety was such that some downtown Springfield-based businesses actually closed their doors or altered their schedules in the wake of some predictions. There were electronic signs on I-91 alerting motorists that MGM was opening on Aug. 24, and therefore they should expect delays.

But, for the most part, none of that happened, and what looked to the untrained eye to be a somewhat slow start for the casino was actually the fruits of some careful planning, said Dixon.

Elaborating, he said MGM officials made arrangements with the Big E for casino patrons to park there for free and be shuttled over. And then, in the countless media interviews that took place leading up to and just after the opening, those same officials kept urging people to park across the river to take advantage of that option.

Long story short, they did, and with positive results for area commuters and businesses downtown and elsewhere.

As for hard numbers on MGM’s opening day and first weekend, Dixon didn’t have any at press time. So he qualified things as best he could.

“It was phenomenal,” he said of the opening and the weekend that followed. “And the big jubilation is that we did it — and by ‘we,’ I mean literally the entire community, meaning the city, the Commonwealth, and all the different agencies we’ve been working with to coordinate things. We ran through so many different scenarios, and none of them came to be; we’re as excited for what happened as we are for what didn’t happen.

“We need to get people rested up because this is a marathon, although we had a sprint initially. People need their rest.”

“We did very well in terms of volume — we’re still tabulating the numbers,” he went on. “But we didn’t have the side effects that can potentially come with too many cars, too many pedestrians, and too many issues.”

Looking ahead, and, more specifically, addressing the question of when something approaching normalcy might descend on MGM Springfield, Dixon said it will be a while before that happens.

Indeed, while the week days after the opening were far less hectic, the Labor Day weekend (with Stevie Wonder appearing at the MassMutual Center on Sept. 1) was fast approaching, with Enshrinement weekend for the Basketball Hall of Fame coming the following week, and the Big E to open on Sept. 14.

“I don’t think we’ll see ‘normal’ for some time yet,” said Dixon with a huge smile on his face, implying that not normal is good, as in really good.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked with Dixon about MGM’s long-awaited opening and got a behind-the-scenes look (sort of, but not really) at what was happening, and, as he noted, not happening.

General Manager Alex Dixon didn’t have specific numbers

General Manager Alex Dixon didn’t have specific numbers, but he said volume at MGM Springfield those first few days met or exceeded expectations. Getty Images

Crowd Control

In the days leading up to the opening, there were many MGM employees working long days and often long nights as well, said Dixon, who put himself in that category.

So one of the many items on his to-do list as general manager in the days immediately following the opening was to make sure that those who needed to caught up on their rest.

“That Sunday was focused on really looking at people’s days off, to make sure that, if they couldn’t take a full day, they could at least take some hours off,” he explained. “We need to get people rested up because this is a marathon, although we had a sprint initially. People need their rest.”

After that first weekend, most certainly needed some rest, he went on, adding that the facility was at or near full capacity for many stretches, especially Friday and Saturday nights.

For the most part, the hundreds of employees, many wearing their uniforms for the first time, came through it well, despite what were for some 16-, 18-, even 20-hour days for those at the top levels.

As the bartenders, waiters, and waitresses serving up Sex on the Beach drinks — or not, as the case may be — they had some very long nights, but few seemed to be complaining, said Dixon.

“I heard anecdotally that someone said they made more in three hours than she did in three weeks at her last job,” he said. “That’s not only heartwarming, but it gives an indication of the sheer volume we encountered, and our restaurants were far busier than any of us could have imagined.”

Flashing back to opening day, he said that he and his team handled the different waves of visitors smoothly, but made some adjustments on the fly. The first wave comprised of the thousands who assembled on Main Street in advance of the 11 a.m. opening — some were on the street before 6, said Dixon, adding that the first order of business that day (literally and figuratively) was to get those people into the building safely and in an orderly fashion in order to reopen Main Street to traffic.

The first order of business for those at MGM Springfield

The first order of business for those at MGM Springfield was to get the throngs on Main Street who gathered on the morning of opening day into the facility safely and in an orderly fashion.

That all happened according to plan, he went on, adding that the next wave was a mixed group that included large numbers of workers spilling out of the downtown office buildings and walking the few blocks to the casino. Another wave came through that night, again filling the casino to something approaching full capacity.

As for the adjustments, or tweaks, as Dixon called them, they included everything from reconfiguring the ling lines for people looking to sign up for the M Life Rewards program to devising ways to handle all the traffic at the brick-oven pizzeria at the Cal-Mare restaurant.

“The pizza counter was wildly successful, and we needed more space, we needed another point of sale to handle everyone,” he noted. “That brick-oven pizza was just a hit, so we made some adjustments.”

Getting back to that phrase ‘carmageddon,’ Dixon said it didn’t happen on opening weekend, and that shows, by and large, that it’s not likely to happen on a large scale.

When asked if that was a good thing, he said it was — for MGM, the region, and its business community.

“Through this big peak, we’ve shown that there’s not an over-arching impact to the business community in a negative way, such as slowing down commerce to the rest of the city,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re just really proud of the planning we did in advance, with the city, West Springfield, and the Big E; that investment in the shuttles really paid off.”

And the investment grew in size, because the shuttle service, originally to be offered only on opening day (Friday), was extended through the weekend in yet another attempt to control the impact of the casino’s opening on the region and its businesses.

Drinking it In

When pressed, Dixon said he doesn’t know what goes into a Sex on the Beach drink and wouldn’t know how to make one.

“But apparently half of Springfield does, because that’s must have been the most popular drink,” he said with a laugh, adding that besides stocking on up on peach schnapps and whatever else might be needed, he and his team will continue to make tweaks and adjust as necessary, because ‘normal,’ as he noted, isn’t something likely to be seen at MGM for a while.

And as he also noted, this is a marathon, even though it started with a sprint.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story

MGM Opens

MGM Springfield will open for business on August 24, thus ending a seven-year-long effort to bring a resort casino to Springfield’s South End and beginning a new era in the city’s history. In this special section, we’ll look at what brought us to this moment and what MGM’s arrival means to a wide range of constituencies, from those now working for the company to those doing business with it. (Photography provided by Aerial 51 Studios)

• The Moment is Here

Springfield Begins a New and Intriguing Chapter in its History

• From Their Perspective

Area Civic, Business Leaders Weigh in on MGM and its Impact

• An MGM Chronology

• Hitting the Jackpot

Dozens of Area Companies Become Coveted MGM Vendors

• MGM Springfield at a Glance

• In Good Company

Area Residents Find Opportunity Knocks at MGM Springfield

• Who’s Who?

The MGM Springfield Leadership Team

MGM Springfield

Editor’s Note: MGM’s opening on August 24 will cap a more-than-seven-year-long process of bringing a resort casino to Springfield’s South End. Here is a chronology of the events that brought us to this moment in Springfield’s history.

Original designs called for a 25-story large glass-façade hotel

Original designs called for a 25-story large glass-façade hotel; they were changed in late 2015 to include a five-story hotel along Main Street.

• Nov. 2011: Gov. Deval Patrick signs “An Act Establishing Expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth,” allowing for up to three destination resort casinos located in three geographically diverse regions across the state, as well as one slots-only facility. The act states that the Commonwealth will receive 25% of gross gaming revenues, and also creates an independent body, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, to oversee the implementation and licensing process.

• August 2012: MGM formally announces its interest in a resort casino in Springfield. In fact, a total of three proposals for casinos emerge in the City of Homes — MGM, which targets the city’s tornado-damaged South End; Penn National, which proffers a development in the North End; and Ameristar, which hones in on the former Westinghouse site.

• Dec. 2012: Ameristar withdraws its proposal for the Westinghouse site, leaving just two competing projects in Springfield.

• April 2013: Mayor Dominic Sarno selects MGM Springfield as the winning proposal for the city of Springfield, ending Penn National’s bid in the North End.

• July 2013: Springfield voters approve the casino project at a referendum, with 58% of voters in favor. The project is now one of three proposals competing to win the Western Mass. casino license, along with Hard Rock’s proposal in West Springfield, alongside the Big E fairgrounds, and Mohegan Sun’s proposal for Palmer, just off the Mass Pike.

• Sept. 2013: West Springfield voters block the Hard Rock proposal, leaving only MGM and Mohegan Sun in the race for the region’s sole casino license.

• Nov. 2013: Palmer voters follow suit, defeating Mohegan Sun’s project, leaving MGM Springfield as the only Western Mass. proposal standing. Had either Hard Rock or Mohegan Sun won voter approval, the Gaming Commission would have had to make the final decision — but the commission must still give the official go-ahead to MGM.

• Jan. 2014: Michael Mathis, vice president of Global Gaming Development for MGM’s hospitality division, is named president and chief operating officer of the MGM Springfield project. “I’m appreciative and grateful for this opportunity,” he said at the time. “There is much to be done in and around Springfield to bring this exciting project to completion. I look forward to continuing to build a team that will create a world-class urban casino-resort proposal and anchor a renaissance for this important Gateway City and the region around it.”

• June 2014: The Gaming Commission unanimously votes to grant the Western Mass. license to MGM. The commission’s decision comes after an extensive, two-year process of hearings and background investigations culminating in a final week of hearings and deliberations.

• Nov. 2014: The final roadblock for MGM’s development falls when a referendum attempting to ban casinos in the state fails, with more than 59% of voters giving the go-ahead to the Commonwealth’s casino era. The four-year process of opening MGM Springfield begins in earnest, with MGM planning to create about 3,000 permanent jobs to benefit the local job market.

• Jan. 2015: MGM Resorts International names Seth Stratton vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield. Stratton, a Springfield native and Longmeadow resident, is responsible for overseeing legal affairs and government relations at the casino resort.

• March 2015: Brian Packer is named vice president of Development and Construction for MGM Springfield, and a groundbreaking ceremony is held at the site.

• June 2015: Springfield officials announce that Springfield will coordinate the casino project in the South End with the multi-year reconstruction of the Interstate 91 viaduct through the city’s downtown, which will delay the opening until 2018. The original target date was late 2017.

• Sept. 2015: MGM unveils a redesigned site plan for the project, abandoning the planned 25-story glass-facade hotel on State Street, in favor of a five-story hotel to be located on Main Street. The changes also include the reduction of the parking garage by one floor, and market-rate apartments being relocated off-site.

This rendering shows the revised design of MGM Springfield

This rendering shows the revised design of MGM Springfield, with this view capturing the landscape on State Street.

• Feb. 2017: MGM Springfield announces the terms of an agreement with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor to become the exclusive venue manager of the MassMutual Center.

• March 2017: Hundreds of construction workers, city officials, MGM employees, and others gather at the future casino site to watch a crane raise the final steel beam into place in a topping-off ceremony.

• June 2017: Alex Dixon, a third-generation casino worker and former assistant general manager at the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, assumes the duties of general manager of MGM Springfield. “A big part of my role is to help facilitate and build a culture,” he told BusinessWest at the time. “And the only way you can do that is by touching people and having an opportunity to not only impart the vision, but listen.”

Alex Dixon was named general manager of MGM Springfield in the spring of 2017.

Alex Dixon was named general manager of MGM Springfield in the spring of 2017.

• Nov. 2017: The MGM Springfield Career Center officially opens for business, with mass hiring events commencing two months later — a period when most of the casino’s 3,000 employees will be hired. Under the host-community agreement, 35% of those employees will be from Springfield, and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the greater region.

• Dec. 2017: The Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, a joint effort between Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College, opens, with classes launching in February.

• May 2018: Passersby finally see signage for the casino and hotel, including the MGM Springfield sign atop the parking garage, highly visible from I-91. Meanwhile, a dome is raised atop the MGM Springfield hotel, just above the hotel’s presidential suite.

• June 2018: MGM Springfield hosts its final pre-opening hiring event, interviewing hundreds of applicants and hiring many of them on the spot.

• August 2018: Plans are announced for MGM Springfield’s Aug. 24 grand opening, which will be preceded by a parade down Main Street at 10:30 a.m. from the corner of State and Main streets, featuring the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales. The procession will arrive at MGM Springfield at 11 a.m., at which time the doors to the casino will officially open — never to close.

MGM Springfield

Editor’s Note: From the beginning, MGM Springfield has touted its $960 million resort casino as, well, much more than a casino, and as the property gets set to open, one can clearly see that this is the case. Here is a quick glimpse at the South End property and all that it will offer visitors:

The Casino

The expansive 125,000-square-foot gaming floor will feature approximately 2,550 slot machines, 120 gaming tables, a poker room and high-limit VIP gaming area for a variety of experiences.

Accomodations

• The boutique-style five-story hotel will feature 250 eclectic guestrooms inspired by the historic significance, iconic architecture and literary legacy of its urban surroundings. Each space is punctuated by details such as quotations from the works of Emily Dickinson and whimsical Merriam-Webster-inspired works of art.

Dining Experiences

MGM Springfield will offer an array of new-to-market food and beverage spots, including:

• Cal Mare: Award-winning celebrity chef Michael Mina will introduce a must-experience restaurant to the New England dining scene with Cal Mare, an Italian concept evoking the vibrant seaside elegance of Italy’s Amalfi Coast. With accolades including James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage” inductee in 2013, Gayot Restaurateur of the Year 2011, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year 2005 and more, Mina continues to dazzle the culinary world with bold dining concepts. For Cal Mare, Mina and MINA Group are collaborating with San Francisco’s Chef of the Year Adam Sobel, for whom the concept has been a passion project for several years. Seafood from the Mediterranean and Pacific Ocean will be essential menu offerings, as well as fresh handmade pastas and brick-oven pizzas. Charcoal grilled fish, crudos and lighter Italian cuisine will inspire the restaurant’s colorful menu, while the beverage program will spotlight coastal Italian wines and an extensive list of Amari including house-made limoncellos and craft cocktails.

• The Chandler Steakhouse: The name and location of The Chandler Steakhouse hold a special place in Springfield history. The restaurant is located in the former Union House Hotel — later renamed the Chandler Hotel — which was preserved as part of the development of MGM Springfield and incorporated into the new resort. Guests will savor the finest seafood and steaks at The Chandler Steakhouse, which will be helmed by Hell’s Kitchen season-14 winner, Meghan Gill. The restaurant will offer cuts of meat made with 100% Midwest Angus beef that has been dry aged in-house for 21 days. Guests will watch their dinner as it is prepared over an open mesquite charcoal broiler through a glass-walled kitchen serving signature dishes such as northwest salmon, whole steamed lobster or a tomahawk ribeye.

• TAP Sports Bar: Building off the success it found at MGM Grand Las Vegas, MGM Grand Detroit and MGM National Harbor, TAP Sports Bar will make its mark on downtown Springfield. TAP will feature a 10-lane bowling alley, arcade, and beer garden, and fans can keep up with live game action on state-of-the-art HD TVs, as well as a massive video wall featuring 32 screens that can operate individually or as one giant image. Hundreds of hand-selected, vintage memorabilia pieces will be displayed prominently in the bar and dining areas, all carefully chosen to represent the surrounding area’s deeply rooted sports history. Adjacent to the sports bar, TAP’s arcade and bowling alley will be energetic and eclectic gathering spots for gaming, drinking and socializing. The space also will house a playful area featuring vintage video games, billiards, shuffleboard, air hockey and foosball. TAP will serve up Springfield-inspired menu items, including TAP’s Hall of Fame Burger, signature wings and Reubens. Beer aficionados will appreciate the vast varietals on tap and draft at TAP’s beer garden, which also will showcase local brewery partners.

• South End Market: Adding a gourmet twist to the classic food hall, the bustling South End Market will feature a variety of quick-casual dining spots. Located off Main Street, the Market will house Wicked Noodles, a pan-Asian restaurant; Jack’s Lobster Shack, offering lobster rolls and New England-style clam chowder; an all-American eatery at Bill’s Diner; and healthy options at the Hearth Grill. Additionally, guests will be able to sit and sip at a Wine & Cheese bar or satisfy their sweet tooth at a Gelato & Espresso counter.

Meeting Facilities

In addition to large-scale convention capabilities at MassMutual Center, MGM Springfield will offer approximately 34,000 square feet of space to accommodate meetings and events ranging from business to social gatherings. The meeting and event center will feature ballrooms, meeting rooms and boardrooms adjacent to a 6,200-square-foot outdoor terrace that will flood pre-function areas with natural light. All meeting spaces will incorporate sister property names highlighting the resort’s connection to other top destinations around the country: The 10,600-square-foot ARIA Ballroom; 5,600-square-foot Bellagio Ballroom; 1,000-square-foot Borgata Meeting Room; and the 1,000-square-foot Beau Rivage Boardroom. For larger groups, the nearby MassMutual Center offers 100,000 square feet of large-scale event space.

Retail

MGM Springfield will offer a retail lineup with a decidedly local flavor, with:

• Indian Motorcycle: The Springfield-born pioneers of the American motorcycle industry, will debut the brand’s first-ever apparel store as an anchor tenant of MGM Springfield. retail collection. The store will offer items from the brand’s casual apparel line, the Indian Motorcycle 1901 Fashion Collection, which includes graphic tees, sweatshirts, hoodies and jackets inspired by Indian Motorcycle’s rich heritage. Indian Motorcycle jewelry and accessories also will be available for purchase. Mirroring the aesthetic of the store’s product lines, the space will feature an industrial-yet-modern vibe with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete and wood elements.

•Hannoush Jewelers: Founded in Springfield in 1980, Hannoush Jewelers is a family-owned and operated business. The MGM Springfield location will be a flagship for the expanding brand that boasts more than 50 locations throughout Massachusetts. Guests can expect to find pieces from sought-after designers such as Tacori, Breitling, Alex and Ani, Pandora and more.

• Kringle Candle: Kringle Candle unites heritage and innovation in its signature line of all-white, ultra-fragrant, pure-burning candles. The Springfield boutique will be situated in the First Spiritualist Church space (a historic High Victorian Gothic church that was literally lifted from its foundation and relocated approximately 600 feet to its new permanent home). It will draw inspiration from Kringle Candle’s thriving Bernardston shopping destination, featuring candles, eclectic gifts, keepsakes and chocolates alongside a gourmet café offering sandwiches, salads and pastries for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Entertainment

The 8,000-seat MassMutual Center is MGM Springfield’s official entertainment venue, serving as the home for large-scale conventions and events. MGM Springfield also will partner with other local venues, such as Symphony Hall, for live events;

More Entertainment

Guests can tee up at MGM Springfield’s Topgolf® Swing Suite, a new social gathering spot featuring high-tech immersive golf simulators and a lively lounge with delicious food and beverage offerings. The resort also will feature an eight-screen movie theater complex; 10-lane bowling center; serene spa; and an 8,000-square-foot pool situated within a terraced rooftop garden.

Open Air Plaza

Inspired by the classic New England town common, MGM Springfield will create a lively outdoor plaza and thriving public space, with the iconic 19th century Springfield Armory at its center. The historic United States arsenal will provide the backdrop for the open-air marketplace, which will feature live events, local artisans, farmers markets and seasonal programming including an outdoor ice rink. The plaza will become the anchor for the neighborhood’s pedestrian crowd, encouraging guests to explore the many local businesses and attractions nearby.

Art

Woven through all elements of the resort, a public fine art program inspired by the industrial ethos of Springfield will feature a captivating collection of commissioned and hand-selected pieces by international and local artists from Springfield, the greater Berkshires, New England and beyond. The property also will feature an exclusive exhibit, “Cabinet of Curiosities: Springfield Innovations from the Springfield Museums,” curated in partnership with the Springfield Museums to showcase turn-of-the-century objects throughout the resort, such as a 1925 Edison Western Union Stock Ticker, a 1915 Springfield-made Telegraphone, and an 1895 Edison Home Phonograph.

MGM Springfield
Mike Mathis: President and COO
Mike Mathis: President and COO
Anthony Caratozzolo: Vice President, Food & Beverage
Alex Dixon: General Manager
Anika Gaskins: Vice President, National Marketing
Brian Jordan: Director, Surveillance
Monique Messier: Executive Director, Sales
Sarah Moore: Vice President, Marketing, Advertising & Brand
Marikate Murren: Vice President, Human Resources
Jason Rosewell: Vice President, Facilities
Jason Rucker: Executive Director, Security
Lynn Segars: Vice President, Slot Operations
Gregg Skowronski: Executive Director, Hotel Operations
Talia Spera: Executive Director, Arena Operations
Seth Stratton: Vice President and General Counsel
Courtney Wenleder: Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Robert Westerfield: Vice President, Table Games