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Hard Rock resort casino proposal continues its evolution


March 8, 2013
<b>An aerial view of the Eastern States Exposition 175-acre fairgrounds during the 2010 Big E. The proposed Hard Rock International resort casino would be constructed on the 38-acre Gate 9 lot.</b><br>Photo courtesy of the Eastern States Exposition

An aerial view of the Eastern States Exposition 175-acre fairgrounds during the 2010 Big E. The proposed Hard Rock International resort casino would be constructed on the 38-acre Gate 9 lot.
Photo courtesy of the Eastern States Exposition

By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The proposal for the Hard Rock International resort casino on the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) fairgrounds continues to evolve. At a joint meeting of the Casino Committee and Casino Commission on Feb. 27, representatives provided updates on the project.

While displaying an updated conceptual schematic of the proposal, Jim Allen, chair of Hard Rock, said, "We've made tremendous progress with the issues. We have repositioned the building to accommodate the 100-year flood plan and the environmental concerns."

Allen stated that the design team studied the historical heritage of the area and ESE to create a façade that complimented the existing atmosphere. He said the goal of the project is to be "thoughtful and respectful" of the area.

"We want to make this an entertainment destination for New England," Allen said. "We have executed a ground lease for 38 acres of ESE property. We recognize that we are a tenant."

He continued, "We seek to eliminate as much traffic as possible on Memorial Avenue," adding that efforts will include the "beautification" of the area. "We will not allow the issue of traffic to become a negative from our viewpoint."

Allen noted that Hard Rock had the capital to address any and all traffic concerns. He said that effort included future maintenance. "We want to make Memorial Avenue a showcase and will incur the cost to keep it beautiful."

Another point he made is that the site needed direct access from U.S. Route 5, and noted there are four possible options. The ultimate goal Allen said is to "have multiple points of access into our site."

Mayor Gregory Neffinger said, "Most of the traffic ideas are coming out of the mayor's office — we already know the issues. We are able to offer suggestions for Hard Rock to explore to see if they are physically and economically viable. It's a very unique site — there's a lot of opportunity to improve traffic concerns."

In a separate interview Mark Rivers, president of Bronson Companies discussed the progress of the proposal with Reminder Publications.

"We are working actively and assertively to find viable and suitable alternatives to ease peak congestion and to provide ample parking," he said.

If the Hard Rock proposal is passed by the voters and chosen by the state, Allen said, "We would love to open the facility on the 100th anniversary of the Big E."

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