WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Its official, a host community agreement between Hard Rock International and the Town of West Springfield has been signed.
Here's a look at what it could mean for you:
- $26 million would be funneled into the region annually with $18 million specifically for West Springfield.
- Then each year, $3 million would be rotated between the five surrounding communities of Springfield, Agawam, Holyoke, Chicopee and Westfield.
- Hard Rock has also committed to paying for a new interchange off Route 5, just south of the Memorial Bridge. They say it will create another entrance to the Eastern States Exposition grounds and help alleviate traffic along Memorial Avenue.
It was all smiles when Hard Rock New England President Tim Maland shook hands with West Springfield Mayor Greg Neffinger.
"We've structured a deal that I think not only helps the residents of West Springfield to a large extent, but also helps the region," said Maland.
Yet it's what happened after the announcement that left some town councilors upset.
There were tense moments inside when immediately following the announcement that a host community agreement had been signed, a vote was held on whether to accept procedural language by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission .
The Town Council organized a vote to determine whether they should move forward with a referendum, even though the gaming commission hasn't determined which gaming companies meet their standards.
Council President Kathleen Bourque took her seat to start the meeting, and made this announcement: "If we don't have that host agreement within the next five minutes in front of us, unfortunately I am really sorry to say that we will have to cancel tonight's meeting."
That caused a scramble to get the six page document in the hands of the Town Councilors.
Eventually the Council received the agreement, and voted to go forward with scheduling a referendum vote at a later date.
What was supposed to be a simple meeting that turned into a back-and-forth between the Councilors and the Mayor.
West Springfield Town Councilor Brian Griffin told 22News: "We were assured this morning (Thursday) that we would have it. We also were sure that we would be able to go over that host community agreement with Hard Rock prior to coming into the meeting. That didn't happen either.
Why was the host agreement not distributed to the City Council after it was signed? Mayor Greg Neffinger said: "Well that's another issue, we don't think it's necessary because today was an administrative vote. They still have to vote to put it on the ballot. They have plenty of time to review it."
Hard Rock wants to schedule a referendum vote for residents on September 10th, just prior to the "Big E."
"Big E" President & CEO Gene Cassidy told 22News he thinks that date makes sense because residents would have a heightened awareness of the decision.