All in: MGM Springfield opens in September

  • Wanda Gispert, left, Regional V.P. Talent and Workforce Development for MGM Resorts International, and Marikate Murren, V.P. Human Resources for MGM Springfield, talk about jobs in the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Wanda Gispert, left, Regional V.P. Talent and Workforce Development for MGM Resorts International, and Marikate Murren, V.P. Human Resources for MGM Springfield, talk about jobs in the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Wanda Gispert, left, Regional V.P. Talent and Workforce Development for MGM Resorts International, talks about jobs in the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marikate Murren, V.P. Human Resources for MGM Springfield, talks about jobs in the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Wanda Gispert, left, Regional V.P. Talent and Workforce Development for MGM Resorts International, and Marikate Murren, V.P. Human Resources for MGM Springfield, talk about jobs in the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Inside the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jennifer Russell, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and now Manager, Talent Acquisition, for MGM Springfield, talks with the Gazette at the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jennifer Russell, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and now Manager, Talent Acquisition, for MGM Springfield, talks with the Gazette at the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Inside the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jennifer Russell, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and now Manager, Talent Acquisition, for MGM Springfield, talks with the Gazette at the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Receptionist's area at the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Inside the waiting area of the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Receptionist's area at the MGM Springfield Career Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A rendering of MGM Springfield’s casino complex. MGM

  • A rendering depicting an aerial view of MGM Springfield. MGM

@BeraDunau
Published: 2/25/2018 8:17:32 PM

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield is poised to launch a new era in Massachusetts when it officially opens the doors to its $960 million downtown casino complex this fall, the first of three such regional resort casinos in the Bay State.

While MGM Springfield will certainly have plenty of gambling opportunities — 2,550 slot machines, 120 gaming tables and a 23-table poker room, to name a few — the mixed-use resort complex will also likely attract many non-gamblers for its other offerings, ranging from a four-star hotel to a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants and retail outlets.

And to make it all go? A whopping 3,000 employees working around the clock.

That’s part of the reason many state and regional officials say the project is already spurring economic investment in downtown Springfield and will most certainly boost travel and tourism to Springfield — and possibly to other communities nearby — once it’s up and running.

MGM Springfield continues to be on-pace for a September opening. And once the doors of the 24/7 resort open, they are set to stay that way.

“Once we open, we will never close,” said Wanda Gispert, regional vice president of talent and workforce development at MGM Resorts International.

The complex will include 850,000 square feet of space — excluding its garage — spread over 14 acres within three downtown city blocks between Union Street, State Street, East Columbus Avenue and Main Street.

In addition to the 125,000-square-foot casino and a 252-room hotel, the resort will feature 10 different food outlets, about a dozen retail outlets, a movie theater and a bowling alley. There is also set to be an ice skating rink in the winter, and a farmers’ market in the summer.

“Construction’s going very well,” said Michael Mathis, president and chief operating officer at MGM Springfield.

He noted that the resort uses and is inspired by the historic architecture in downtown Springfield.

Mathis said MGM’s interest in the western Massachusetts casino license grew when it looked like the eastern license was headed to the Suffolk Downs racetrack. The eastern license ended up going to Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett.

Wynn Boston Harbor is set for a 2019 opening, while the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, a slots only establishment, is already open. The third full casino license available in Massachusetts, which is reserved for the southeastern region, has not yet been awarded by the state’s Gaming Commission.

A resort with ‘personality’

Even though MGM International Resorts has properties across the United States and around the world, Gispert said the company tries to give each of its properties a unique identity.

“All of our properties have a different personality,” she said.

Mathis said that what makes MGM Springfield unique is its location in downtown Springfield.

“It’s a great American downtown,” Mathis said.

Additionally, Mathis said that the resort has a purposefully open feel, and that it will be possible to be in downtown Springfield and wander into the resort without even knowing it.

“Here we’re incredibly porous,” he said.

This open feel contrasts with a typical casino model, which funnels people through a few entrances into the casino, Mathis said.

“You can enjoy some of the other non-gaming elements … and never go through the casino,” he said.

This is also true when it comes to jobs.

“You can work for us and never set foot on the casino floor,” said Gispert, noting that most of the jobs won’t be in the casino.

MGM Springfield is slated to employ 3,000 people, more than 200 of which have already been hired, not including the union contractors who are currently building the resort.

Gispert said that when she makes presentations to faith-based groups she talks about the non-gaming positions.

Mathis said that in Las Vegas, 70 percent of revenues at MGM properties actually come from outside of the casino. While he said that in expansion properties, such as MGM Springfield, the majority of revenues come from the casino, he also said that MGM intends to put its expertise in non-gaming areas into the new property.

“Through that we really create … a destination,” he said.

Jobs in accounting, human resources, finance, table games and front desk are just some of the positions at the resort, and Gispert noted that jobs for people without college degrees, with college degrees and with advanced degrees will be available.

Gispert said that because the resort will be open every day of the year, every hour of the day, it provides a lot of flexibility for potential employees, noting that a number of police officers and school teachers in Las Vegas work for MGM in their off hours.

“There’s so much to do,” she said.

The average pay of those jobs will be $45,000 a year, with benefits, said Marikate Murren, vice president of human resources at MGM Springfield. She also noted that uniforms and dry cleaning for uniforms will be provided by MGM for free, and that a Head Start location is being opened across the street from the facility to provide day care for those who qualify. Employee dining will also be offered, although it will not be complimentary.

MGM Springfield will open as a union shop. However, neutrality agreements have been set up with unions that have unionized MGM employees in Las Vegas, meaning that those unions will have access to MGM Springfield employees.

Gispert noted that there are 29 colleges in the casino’s area.

“I love it,” Gispert said. “They’re pumping out grads.”

She also noted MGM’s tuition reimbursement program, and said that MGM is a good place to start working for those who are unclear about their post-high school plans, as the company can help pay for college.

Another thing that she emphasized was the ability for people employed in the hospitality industry to advance from entry-level positions, or switch into other roles in MGM with the proper qualifications. Gispert said that she herself started in hospitality as a front desk clerk.

“Hospitality is a very entry-level type industry,” she said.

Gaming

On the gaming side of the equation, Mathis said that MGM will have a 23-table poker room.

“It’s one of the best poker rooms we’ve ever designed,” he said.

Asked about attracting professional gamblers and dedicated players from other casinos, Mathis said that MGM will look to attract local players who already travel to go to MGM properties, as well as offering a quality product.

“You’ve got to earn their business,” he said.

While he said that there were no plans for a big inaugural poker tournament at this time, he did say that MGM Springfield could host tournaments that would send their winners to MGM properties in Las Vegas, something he said was another benefit MGM Springfield could offer.

The casino is also set to have 2,550 slot machines and 120 gaming tables.

Gispert noted that dealers can also put in for transfers to other MGM properties.

Gispert said that people in Springfield had approached her with excitement at the upcoming opening, both as customers and as potential employees.

Revitalizing Springfield

Mathis, meanwhile, said that he saw the casino as contributing to a revitalization of Springfield, noting both MassMutual’s decision to relocate 1,500 jobs to Springfield and the CRRC rail car factory set to begin production in the city this year.

“There’s a bit of a return to downtown,” said Mathis, noting that the young people who are joining MGM Springfield are choosing to live downtown.

“We’ll turn some of these storefronts on,” he continued.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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