|By Carley Dangona
This map of the proposed Hard Rock New England resort casino shows how it will be oriented on the Big E parking area.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock International
WEST SPRINGFIELD Representatives from Hard Rock New England (HRNE) guided residents through a site tour on June 26 through the section of the Big E fairgrounds where the casino complex is proposed to be built.
Each section of the venue was marked with a different colored tape, to emphasize the actual footprint of the complex.
Like MGM's proposal in Springfield, HRNE officials stressed the entertainment options the resort would offer over its gaming component.
The proposed HRNE resort casino will include a mix of non-gaming and gaming amenities: a 400-room hotel, an approximately 100,000 square-foot casino with 100 table games and 2,500 slot machines, a Hard Rock Café, a Hard Rock Live concert venue and an approximately 100,000 square-foot retail galleria.
"It's not just a box with slot machines in it. It's going to be much more. It's going to be retail, it's going to be a Hard Rock Café, it's going to be memorabilia, it's going to be live performances, a hotel with first-class accommodations it's going to be a lot of different things besides a casino, " Tim Maland, HRNE president, said, adding that only nine of the 180 Hard Rock venues are casinos.
"We've seen an evolution of the industry," Mark Rivers, president of Bronson Companies said. "In order to attract people regionally or from a distance, there has to be more there than just the gaming."
Jonathan Little, director of Development for Bronson Companies, explained that the purpose of the site walk was to "get a sense of how the property will sit and fit in its environment."
The 50,000 square-foot Hard Rock Live concert venue will seat 3,500 people and will have a flat floor with removable seats that can be rearranged to accommodate the needs of trades shows and conventions. Maland explained that a retractable wall would add to the "flexibility" of the venue because ticket availability for high demand shows can be increased by opening up the venue to offer standing room only.
Maland addressed one citizen's concerns about the noise level by stating that HRNE will comply with all time constraints and performance regulations of the town. He added that more vegetation will be added as part of the landscape design, which will serve as an added sound buffer.
Elizabeth Baranik, Marketing manager for Hard Rock New England, led participants through the café site of the tour. She stressed that the restaurant could be accessed without stepping foot into the casino. She said that the café would feature music memorabilia unique to its site to create an "authentic experience" for patrons.
Baranik added that the design of the café layout was in process and that the final specifications may include a meeting room for larger groups and a small performance stage.
Little discussed the shopping galleria that will house stores and restaurants, calling it the "sustainable backbone" of the destination. He noted that a central courtyard would have a rotating center stage motif to celebrate various events. He added that a roadway would provide patrons with access to the Eastern States Exposition and additional parking.
"The guest experience is of utmost importance," he said. "The idea is that this resort is family-friendly. There's a lot more going on than just the casino."
Francis Hoey III, senior vice president of Tighe & Bond, spoke about the environmental efficiencies of the proposed HRNE site. He stated while the Massachusetts Gaming Commission requires 10 percent energy efficiency, the goal is to build a site where 30 percent of the energy needs are met with renewable resources.
Roof-mounted solar panels atop the parking garage is one feature that will assist HRNE in meeting that goal, according to Hoey. "The percentage of power generated by the solar panels is yet to be determined since the plans are still being designed," he said.
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