AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) - Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen said Monday that he is forming a committee to research the impact a casino at the Big E would have on the residents of Agawam.
Mayor Cohen says the town already deals with increased traffic two weeks out of the year when the fair is in town. He says they are okay with that because it is only two weeks, but he's afraid a casino could have a negative impact year-round on local businesses and increased traffic.
He is especially concerned that it will take away from Six Flags New England; one of Agawam's largest taxpayers. As a venue, Six Flags also hosts live concerts and entertainment.
Agawam Clerk Richard Theroux will chair the committee.
Theroux told 22News that the Big E has invited Agawam to the table as casino talks continue and he's happy they're a part of the conversation.
"They didn't have to invite us, but they did, and that's nice. We're definitely going to take the seat they've offered," Theroux said.
Cohen and Theroux say that they hope Agawam is considered for some kind of financial benefit if West Springfield wins the casino license.
"We don't want to be left with tons of traffic on our roads and nothing else," Cohen said.
Agawam Town leaders aren't alone; those who live near the Big E are waiting for answers to the big questions as well.
"The flow of traffic, that would be my main concern and what it would do to the town and surrounding towns actually," said Alan Thyberg, Southwick.
Below is a statement from the Big E released Monday evening to address some of Agawam's concerns.
Statement from Eastern States Exposition re: traffic concerns in West Springfield and Agawam
Agawam will be the 2nd largest beneficiary of the regional entertainment casino resort project proposed on approximately 40 acres of the Eastern States Exposition 175-acre campus. West Springfield, as the host community, will be the biggest beneficiary of tax revenue, but Agawam, as an adjoining/surrounding town, will ultimately participate in some form of a revenue sharing agreement which will generate tax revenues for that town.
The Big E and Hard Rock are working on a comprehensive traffic mitigation plan that will improve traffic in both Agawam and West Springfield and the casino project will be the catalyst for providing funding to improve the traffic situation for both communities which previously has not been addressed due to the lack of federal and state funding available to resolve these issues.
With the state's announcement today, of a $1 billion funding gap available for state and regional transportation improvements, the casino project at Eastern States Exposition will be a catalyst for traffic improvements that will be undertaken in both West Springfield and Agawam. Our project will not only improve traffic in West Springfield, but it could even serve to mitigate Agawam's existing traffic issues associated with Six Flags New England.
If the casino project goes to Springfield, both Agawam and West Springfield will not receive any substantial revenue sharing and both communities will continue to have traffic problems in their communities