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Open 5 years, MGM Springfield has had ups and downs

MGM Springfield President and CEO Chris Kelley.
Adam Frenier
MGM Springfield President and CEO Chris Kelley.

Five years ago Thursday, the MGM Springfield casino opened and, has had its share of ups and downs since.

The casino, which cost nearly $1 billion to complete, has been missing the mark on initial revenue and hiring projections. There was also the pandemic, which caused MGM to shut down for several months, and led to long-term limited operations when it did reopen. That caused concern from some local leaders.

In terms of jobs, “We stand over 1,500 strong today,” said MGM Springfield President and CEO Chris Kelley on Thursday.

The casino had about 2,000 employees in March of 2020 before COVID hit, about a thousand below projections before it opened. It has hundreds of vacancies it is currently trying to fill.

But there have been some positives. Kelley said MGM has generated more than $400 million in state and municipal tax revenue, "Including over 100 million directly to the City of Springfield," he said.

The casino business has also picked up in the last year. Kelley said the last three quarters for the casino have been the best since it went into business. Earlier this year, it also opened a sportsbook to allow for betting on sporting events.

And there's also been an uptick in entertainment offerings at the MGM managed MassMutual Center. This year, renowned musicians Bruno Mars and Carlos Santana have played to big crowds. There also has been popular comedy acts by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as well as Bill Burr, who is due for a return trip to Springfield October 1. The Springfield Thunderbirds hockey team has also been a popular draw. The team averaged 6,162 for 36 regular season home games last season.

Kelley made his remarks during an event kicking off a campaign by the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring more tourism to the city’s downtown area. During the event, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and others touted the impact MGM Springfield has had on the surrounding area, in terms of increasing activity and business.

“We knew this project would attract more visitors to Springfield and the ripple effect would benefit all of Western Mass,” said Mary Kay Wydra, president of the visitor’s bureau. “Our recent visitor study confirmed what we expected. The average visitor party spends approximately $500 at the casino complex, which is an entire spending category that we didn’t have before MGM Springfield came onto the tourism scene,”.

As far as the future of MGM Springfield, its head, Kelley, said “We are grateful to be a part of this community and we look forward to many more years to come,”.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.