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MGM, I-91 connection a high-stakes gamble

Date: 8/13/2015

SPRINGFIELD – According to the report submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the stakes would be high if the construction work on I-91 is not finished by the time is ready to open.

According to the documents, the casino could lose as much as $164.4 million in a “worst case scenario.”

The Gaming Commission approved on Aug. 6 both a delay of one year to September 2018 for the opening of MGM Springfield and for the plan negotiated between the casino company and the Massachusetts Historical Commission about preserving elements of the historic buildings on the casino campus.

According to a study for MGM by HLT Advisory, “I-91 is expected to be a primary access route to the casino from areas located beyond 60 minutes. For example, about 73 percent of all trips generated from areas beyond 60 minutes are expected to access the casino site via I-91 southbound.

“The closure of multiple viaduct ramps will impact approximately 70 percent of MGM’s patrons under MGM Springfield’s opening conditions, which represent peak visitation levels. Closures would require MGM’s patrons to utilize long and circuitous detour routes to travel between I-91 North, I-291 North and the MGM site.

“An additional 11 percent of MGM’s patrons would travel along designated detour routes that would see substantial increases in traffic volumes due to these detours, increasing the delay experienced by these patrons.

“Severe traffic congestion and resulting delays would result in a negative experience for MGM’s patrons. The anticipated traffic congestion and substantial delays would result in a negative experience for MGM’s patrons inconsistent with the general standards for quality and customer service established and maintained at MGM’s properties.

The report concluded, “The attendant negative impact on residents and businesses in the city and surrounding communities would likewise result in significant loss of goodwill for MGM, the city and the Gaming Commission due to factors outside of the control of all of these parties.”

The estimated loss of $164.4 million would not include “any ancillary or on-site revenues (e.g. hotel rooms, food and beverage) or offsite spending,” the report added.

MGM’s package of information included three examples of how infrastructure failures and missing opening dates contributed to losses to other casinos.

In the issue of preserving historical elements and buildings, the agreement with the Massachusetts Historical Commission includes retaining part of the facade of the United Electric Company Building at 73 State St., as well as “select interior elements, including the stained glass dome with decorative railing, and select marble wainscoting elements of the ground floor lobby will be carefully removed, stored, and reused within the project at the banquet facility lobby.”

The Howard Street Armory building will have its “head house” preserved, but not the addition built in 1915.

The former Union House/Chandler Hotel – where the store Glory was originally housed – on Main Street will have its “(front) west facade and a minimum of six feet of the Bliss Street (side) north elevation” retained. The other plans for the building include “the second floor window openings at the Main Street elevation will be restored to their original configuration including masonry head conditions. Windows at the second, third, and fourth floors at the Main Street and Bliss Street elevations will be replaced with six-over-six windows matching the original dimensions and configuration, based upon extant windows within the building. Ground floor storefronts will be replaced with new storefronts reminiscent of period storefronts. If retaining original features and materials is not feasible based upon the building’s condition, a new Main Street façade and Bliss Street elevation of like materials and design will be integrated into the development at this location.”

Interior wood details such as panel doors and chairs have been salvaged from the Zanetti School and “select elements” will be saved from the former YWCA building.