Walk into the lobby of the stylishly cool and chic MGM Springfield resort in Springfield, Massachusetts, and you’d never guess what lies just beyond a corridor that juts off obliquely near the registration desk and elevators.
The newest property in the casino-rich MGM empire opened on August 24 boasting a 125,000 square-foot gaming facility. On my mid-September visit, it was abuzz with the sounds, sights and sparkle you typically expect from a Las Vegas casino. It came somewhat as a surprise, then, in western Massachusetts, about 80 miles west of Boston. People were visiting from far and wide to turn their money into winnings via their favorites among the blackjack and craps tables, roulette wheel, slot machines, baccarat table, and 23 poker tables.
The mega-complex—which cost nearly $1 billion to build—spills over 14.5 acres and nearly three city blocks. Springfield, with its rich manufacturing and literary history, is hoping the resort will anchor its revitalization and be a boon to the economy following the devastating tornado that ripped through downtown in 2011. In the first three weeks, the destination-style casino exceeded visitor expectations with more than 150,000 guests filing through in the first three days alone. Eventually, the MGM Springfield is expected to employ some 3,000 people, 35% of whom will be Springfield residents.
Inside the MGM Springfield
Every one of the MGM Springfield’s 250 rooms is said to be unique. Dark and neutral hues make them inviting and cozy, and an entire bank of pictures on the wall references the city’s history. Guests can expect to see quotes from the works of local poet Emily Dickinson projected onto corridor carpeting, historical objects on loan from the Springfield Museums (see below) near the elevators, and an abstract array of electrical lighting on the corridor walls that add touches of whimsy.
To oversee the resort’s top two restaurants, MGM brought in James-Beard-Award-winning chef Michael Mina. Mina adds epicurean flourishes to Cal Mare, billed as “southern coastal Italian meets New England’s signature style.” Oyster-lovers might want to sample his take on oysters, a surprisingly innovative presentation that includes elements you might not think go well together: Limoncello granita, pink peppercorn and borage accompaniments to the ice cold shellfish.
At the helm of the Chandler Steakhouse is Meghan Gill, Hell’s Kitchen Season 14 winner. More formal and elegant, the Chandler Steakhouse gets its name from a former Springfield hotel frequented by Presidents Polk and Buchanan. Interestingly, designers have incorporated that historic hotel into the new resort’s infrastructure. The Chandler’s Angus beef steaks are dry-aged for 21 days, but you’ll also find on the menu seafood selections and tableside options like Caesar salad, prime rib and flaming desserts.
For more casual fare, TAP Sports Bar allows you to watch your favorite sporting events on big-screen TVs scattered all over the brick-walled eatery while noshing on down-home, New England-inspired dishes. Further ways to amuse the entire family as part of a TAP experience include an on-site, ten-lane bowling alley and arcade games.
If you’re in the mood for something special, drop into the ultra-hip Commonwealth Bar and Lounge, where a mixologist will roll up a cocktail cart on request and prepare an up-close-and-personal beverage request. One of the specialty drinks listed the night of my visit, “#FakeNews,” is a blend of Russian vodka (what else?), spiced pear liqueur, and fresh lemon and orange with a cinnamon sugar rim. If you’re wondering what the Indian motorcycle is doing standing at the edge of the bar, it’s part of a drink special that’ll put a real hole in your wallet or purse. An homage to Springfield’s history as a manufacturer of Indian motorcycles, the bar is including the bike in the “Indian Sidecar,” a mix of Croizet 1901 vintage cognac, Grand Marnier Quintessence, fresh lemons, and a gold (real gold) sugar rim. The price: $25,000.
When looking for a bit of relaxation, the on-site spa offers massages, wraps, classic waxes, and more, and the seven-screen Regal Cinemas auditorium is the place for blockbuster films seen from comfortable cushy seats. Off the plaza, you can also test your golf swing using a high-tech simulator while you eat and drink at Topgolf. Just next door, Indian Motorcycle is stocked with a large inventory of the brand’s 1901 apparel line. There’s almost no end to the outlets for your time.
In an attractive former French congregational church—moved 500 feet to make way for the casino—Kringle Emporium is managed by Michael Kittredge III, son of the founder of Yankee Candle. It’s (obviously) stocked with candles of all shapes, scents and sizes, but the store also sports a gift section and a café with paninis and baked goods to die for. Pair them with a coffee drink or a luscious alcohol-infused milkshake for a real treat.
Nearby in Springfield
Just across from the resort’s large outdoor plaza, the 1895 castle-like Springfield Armory, now a National Historic Site, sits in striking contrast to its contemporary surroundings. The armory has a huge collection of small arms weaponry, underscoring its role as the primary manufacturer of the nation’s military firearms starting in 1777. Nearby, a sprawling plaza is expected to be a beehive of activity with outdoor events like a farmer’s market, food trucks, live entertainment, art installations and, in winter, an ice skating rink.
Entertainment outside the resort can be had at the MassMutual Center, just a few blocks away. The resort provides free shuttle service called the Loop to several places in town including the center, which recently held a Stevie Wonder concert. Cher is scheduled to perform there on April 30 next year.
If you want to explore Springfield deeper, the town also boasts the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (basketball is said to have originated in Springfield in 1891) and the Springfield Museums, a cluster of five separate buildings devoted to art, history, science, and Dr. Seuss, who was born and raised in Springfield.
For more information on the MGM Springfield, visit mgmspringfield.com.