| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The city’s chief development officer reported on Feb. 16 that MGM Springfield is on schedule at the halfway point of its construction.
Kevin Kennedy noted there has been “a lot of give and take” between the city and MGM in making a number of decisions about nearly $1 billion destination casino.
The project has 18 months until its anticipated opening of September 2018.
Among the issues that have been discussed include the restoration of Da Vinci Park in a new location in the South End, landscaping, lighting and exterior wall treatments.
The design of the valet pick-up in the garage was another example of the city successful negotiating with MGM officials for a change Kennedy noted.
The MGM 50 percent Construction Documents Submittal Summary Report presented to the city by its consultants, the Chicago Consultants Studio, Inc. noted the compliance so far the casino company has made to the Host Community Agreement (HCA). The report noted based on the progress to date, “the project is consistent with the HCA commitments and reflects the high quality of design and concept desired throughout the project.”
Among many points the report confirms that MGM “anticipates” using the former First Spiritualist Church building and a large outside terrace for food and beverage use. MGM plans to announce more detail once a tenant is known.
The former Howard Street Armory will also be used for food and beverage but additional study must be undertaken to determine “the final configuration and location of loading/service uses so as not to negatively impact the surroundings.”
MGM is also looking at vendors to operate the movie theater promised in the plan. Under discussion is whether or not the theater would have a dining component. Under the HCA the theater would have at “least six theaters.” The city is advocating the enhanced food service as it would unique in the market.
The bowling alley would also be in compliance to the HCA with at least 10 lanes.
A child care center would be located on Union Street east of Main Street and only part of the building that houses the day care services would be under MGM development control.
The 54 apartments that are stipulated by the casino design and the HCA are not addressed by the report. Kennedy said the city is preparing to make an announcement shortly about the second location of the apartments. Thirty of the units will be at the former School department building on State Street, which MGM now owns.
Police Commissioner John Barbieri spoke about the plans for a dedicated police unit for the casino district as well as the plans to install a substation to serve that area.
With a daily average of 10,000 visitors to the casino, Barbieri said the goal was to provide the necessary police presence without pulling officers out of other parts of the city.
Barbieri said there would be a unit of 42 officers and supervisors who would operate out of the area described by Union Station at one end and the casino at the others.
Barbieri added the additional offciers would be seen in the downtown area six to eight months prior to the opening of the casino.
He believes the need for a substation is import and the city released a Request for Proposals (RFP) the same day for its location.
The city is seeking to lease space approximately 2,500 square feet of space for five years with one optional renewal of another five years. The deadline for the RFP is March 20 at 2 p.m.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, who could not be at the press conference, issued a written statement: “I am extremely pleased to be able to say that MGM’s designs continue to be consistent with what has been outlined within the Host Community Agreement and that MGM Springfield continues to strive to bring a world class venue to the City’s downtown. MGM and the city have always had a very strong relationship and we are very pleased to be able to ensure the citizens of Springfield as well as the City Council that the commitments outlined in the HCA are being monitored by the city and are being complied with by MGM.”