| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The discussion that was deemed the most important at the City Council’s Casino Oversight Committee meeting on June 15 was the topic with the least details.
Councilors Michael Fenton, Jesse Lederman, Melvin Edwards asked City Solicitor Edward Pikula and Seth Stratton, vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield, about the logistical plans for the opening of the casino. The details the councilors wanted to hear concerned the number of visitors, vehicle trips, traffic concerns and road closures.
Although the casino is due to open on Aug. 24, Stratton said such as discussion is still “a little premature.”
He did say one thing for sure: “There will be visitation in downtown Springfield that has never been seen before.”
Pikula and Stratton explained the city and MGM have had regular weekly meetings to discuss strategies for opening day and the weeks that follow.
Stratton said the anticipated visitation during the initial opening period might be as high as 25,000 people a day with more on opening day. The legal capacity of the casino complex is 14,000 people and the MassMutual center may be used as a holding facility for people waiting to get into the complex.
Because traffic is anticipated to be heavy, Stratton said the city and MGM are exploring the possibility of shuttle service for people who work in downtown. Discussions have taken place with the Big E, Springfield Plaza and Eastfield Mall as possible shuttle locations.
Pikula said that as Aug. 24 approaches, city officials and MGM would be meeting more frequently.
The committee also discussed a vaping policy for MGM. Currently there is no city or state regulation about vaping, except that people under the age of 18 cannot do it.
Edwards expressed his opinion how he does not want to “walk through anybody’s vape,” and the conversation switched to the mechanism for the city to set up vaping regulations that would affect all public places, not just MGM.
The councilors urged a policy to be adopted before the casino opening, which would require action by the Public Health Council and the council.