|By Carley Dangona
Top: Bret Michaels performed during the Jan. 11 press conference where Hard Rock International revealed its plans for a casino housed on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition.
Middle: Artist's conception of entry to casino.
Bottom: Aerial view of proposed West Side casino by night.
Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona
WEST SPRINGFIELD On Jan. 11, Hard Rock International revealed its plans for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino New England, which would be housed on 38 acres of the 177-acre campus of the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) fairgrounds.
The company made the announcement at the Storrowton Carriage House which was barely recognizable after being transformed into a Hard Rock-esque club after it filed an application and submitted the $400,000 non-refundable application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday.
The site would include a 400-room hotel, a Rock Spa with a tropical indoor pool, a 200,000 square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Café and a retail area of approximately 150,000 square-feet. Other aspects include "The Vault" a museum of music memorabilia, a 25,000 square-foot convention area and a school where children and young adults can learn about music.
"Our announcement was late in the game by design," Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the ESE, said. "We are a public charity and have a high standard of expectations [to live up to] we wanted to do things right."
He described the partnership between ESE and Hard Rock as "a coordinated effort."
Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, described the development as a destination entertainment and gaming facility. He stated that the designs are for a resort, "not machines in a box."
Allen and Cassidy addressed the issue of traffic head on. Cassidy explained that traffic is "of paramount concern" for all involved with and affected by the project. Allen stated that Tighe & Bond has traffic studies underway to determine the best possible solution to benefit both the fairgrounds and its community.
"We believe we're the place," Cassidy said. "Today [we got] the first down. We have 80 yards to go."
According to Allen, many benefits of a Hard Rock Casino include thousands of permanent jobs, tax revenue, tourism and philanthropy.
Allen cited the company's stability as the factor that set it apart from the developers seeking to create a casino in Springfield. He noted there are 177 Hard Rock venues in 58 countries that employ more than 30,000 people.
He ensured the project would "stay within the tradition and history of the Big E" and would coordinate its scheduling efforts with ESE to ensure that the long time happenings, such as the Big E, are not impeded on in any way.
When questioned if Hard Rock could indeed bring it unique brand into the area without marring the tradition of the ESE, Allen cited the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., as an "apples to apples comparison." Allen stated the location and surrounding communities of that site are quite similar to West Springfield, and added that the destination there is a success.
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