NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - A plan to bring a casino to Holyoke has Northampton's mayor and local business owners expressing concern.
Eric Suher, a Northampton businessman and part of the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, first presented his proposal to Holyoke's Economic Development Director in late September. But it didn't become a concern for people in Northampton until Monday, when Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse announced Mountain Park could be home to a new resort casino.
The proposed Holyoke casino site is roughly six miles from downtown Northampton.
"All kinds of amusements, a little put-put golf course I can remember when I was growing up," said Holyoke native Paul Doyle of the amusements at Mountain Park. Doyle now lives in British Columbia and says he's against the proposed casino.
Mountain Park is now much different than what Doyle remembers. Suher bought the 60-acre plot in 2006 and has been holding outdoor summer concerts there.
The site is now in the running to become western Massachusetts's gaming destination. "This plan goes beyond its gaming component. And with its inclusion of a 350 room hotel, a convention facility, and indoor and outdoor facility and dining options; it has the potential to expand Holyoke," said Morse during his announcement in Holyoke Monday morning.
And its proximity to Northampton is causing concern. Hotel Northampton is less than eight miles north of Mountain Park. On average, 2,500 people stay there every month. But the owner says a casino in Holyoke could change that.
"It all depends on what they do, if there is a hotel or plenty of hotel rooms there. [Also depends on] the size of the casino itself. If there is a room need they might come to us here or it can affect the opposite," said Mansour Ghalibaf inside his King Street hotel.
Ghalibaf told 22News other area merchants are reluctant to back the proposal, fearing the presence of a casino could have a vacuum effect in the area.
Also concerned about the bid is Northampton's Mayor David Narkewicz, who released a statement following the announcement on Monday. He says development of a Mountain Park Casino could pose a threat to small downtown businesses, jeopardizing the economic vitality the city has worked so hard to achieve.
"You know this is an area that can have a lot of different things happens. I'm not for it, I'm totally against it, but it's complicated," said longtime Northampton resident Robin Maltz.
A spokesperson for Suher says they're currently working on securing partners and finalizing estimates of the economic impact the casino could have in surrounding towns. So far, they've begun talks with Len and Mark Wolman, developers of Mohegan Sun.