MGM’s MassMutual Center bid leaves questions unanswered

April 7, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – MGM will be formally bidding on running the MassMutual Center, but its announced commitment in 2013 to run the center for free may no longer be on the table in 2016.

On March 31, MGM Springfield reported it would seek the development deal in partnership with Spectra by Comcast Spectacor through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process. “Under this joint bid, MGM Springfield would serve as the venue management company and Spectra would provide food and beverage services through its Food Services & Hospitality division,” the  statement reported.

Spectra by Comcast Spectacor is the new name for Global Spectrum, the current management operating the MassMutual Center.

In 2013 at the signing of the host community agreement between MGM management and the city of Springfield, MGM offered a benefit to the state in its quest for approval from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

At that time, Reminder Publications reported, “James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA), urged the attendees to support the proposal and told them to ‘be competitive and know this is a high stakes process.’

“The MassMutual Center, part of the MCCA, could benefit if MGM is selected. Rooney said the MGM offer to assume the management of the building would save the state $300,000, as the casino company would do it for free. MGM has also said it would carry over as many existing employees as it could,” this newspaper reported.

A statement from MGM Springfield President and COO Michael Mathis did not address a direct question about the nature of the fee it would seek from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA).

Reminder Publications posed the following question, among several others, to MGM: “MGM, during its campaign to seek the license, said it would run the MassMutual Center without charging the state a management fee. I believe at the time that savings to the Commonwealth was $250,000 [sic]. Is MGM charging a management fee and if so how much? Is Spectra?”

Mathis replied through a spokesperson, “MGM Springfield and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor are submitting a joint bid as part of a formal RFP process launched by the MCCA. Since coming to the Springfield community, MGM has had a vested interest in the success of the MassMutual Center, and believed that we could leverage our entertainment and operational expertise, as well as find synergies between the two downtown facilities. While this bid is not a specific requirement of our Host Community Agreement (HCA), the proposed venue management terms and conditions align well to our overall commitment to the Center."

If MGM Springfield and Spectra by Comcast Spectacor’s collaborative bid were approved, the partnership would start operating the venue on July 1.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said he was “very pleased” MGM Springfield and Spectra by Comcast Spectator submitted a bid.

He said the successful operation of the MassMutual Center is “extremely important” to the success of the casino and other downtown entertainment venues such as CityStage and Symphony Hall.

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