SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Mayor Domenic Sarno has selected MGM Springfield in the city's South End as his casino of choice.
During a news conference at City Hall late Tuesday morning, Sarno announced his choice of MGM over Penn National Gaming, which has been proposing a casino in the city's North End. He asked city leaders and residents to get behind MGM's proposal.
"This is our time, I ask you for your continued support," Sarno added, calling the proposal "game-changing" for the future of Springfield.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.
It is a story that was first broken Monday night by 22News I-Team reporter Ryan Walsh on WWLP.com and on 22News at 11.
MGM's plan involves revitalizing Springfield's South End, which was partially torn apart by the June 1, 2011 Tornado. The proposed casino would occupy a parcel of land along Main Street running from State Street to Union Street.
The City Council must first approve the city's Host Community Agreement with MGM. A city-wide vote must then approve any casino agreement.
MGM's plan includes the creation of 3,000 permanent jobs. The casino company wants to hire 35% of its employees from Springfield, and 90% of its employees from the entire region.
MGM is partnering with Paul Picknelly, who owns a lot of the property that MGM wants to build on. MGM also has option to buy deals with the rest of the buildings it needs to build on. MGM's plan includes an ice skating rink, bowling alley and it will use existing venues such as the MassMutual Center, City Stage, and Symphony Hall for entertainment.
Part of the proposal would take into account icons of Springfield's past. MGM, for instance, will incorporate the castle-like façade of the former South End Community Center on Howard Street in its plans. The PVTA will run two trolleys downtown to serve visitors to the resort.
Click here for a closer look at some of what a proposed MGM resort in Springfield would includ e.
During Tuesday's announcement, Sarno and Springfield Chief Economic Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said that the proposal isn't just about building casinos. Kennedy emphasized the additional entertainment and retail options that such a casino would bring to the downtown area.
Kennedy added that other revitalization efforts in Springfield, such as the Union Station project, Boston Road redevelopment project, and the effort to bring a higher education institution to downtown, would continue amid the process of developing a resort casino.
Sarno said that having MGM and Penn National compete to be Springfield's casino of choice is beneficial for the city and the whole area.
"Ryan as you covered today and reported last night. We were in negotiations throughout the weekend. We had two world class developers, as you know. Unique positions you could put leverage on and strike a stronger deal for Springfield, Western Mass and the state and that's exactly what we did," Sarno said.
MGM's Springfield casino proposal is competing for the sole western Massachusetts casino license against proposals by Mohegan Sun to build a casino in Palmer, and Hard Rock International to build a casino in West Springfield. The ultimate decision will be made by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Kennedy said that if "all goes well" and MGM is chosen for the license, a casino could open by the later part of 2016.
Meanwhile, because Penn National has paid its non-refundable deposit to the Gaming Commission, they may still propose another casino anywhere in Massachusetts.