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Sarno hopes MGM stays, but says any new casino owner must have 'financial sustainability'

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno addresses a gathering at an update on projects in the city's downtown.
Adam Frenier
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno addresses a gathering at an update on projects in the city's downtown.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno made it clear, he wants MGM to continue to operate its casino in the city. He made his remarks Monday during an update on downtown redevelopment efforts.

Last month, Bloomberg reported MGM was looking to put the casino on the market, although the company would not comment on the rumors. The mayor has since met with MGM officials.

Calling MGM "the cream of the crop" and a key to revitalizing Springfield's downtown, Sarno said he hopes the company stays.

But, if MGM decides to sell, the mayor said his first priority is making sure the contract, known as the host community agreement, between the casino and the city carries over to a new operator. He also said he has some expectations.

"[A new owner] would have to be a brand and a vision that has the financial sustainability and the marketing aspects to continue to move the entertainment complex forward," Sarno said.

The casino, which opened in 2018, has missed the mark on financial and hiring projections. It also had to deal with a months-long shutdown due to the pandemic in 2020.

The state gaming commission, which regulates casinos, race tracks and sports betting in Massachusetts, would have to approve any new operator.

On Monday, officials also provided updates on several projects taking place in Springfield's downtown area.

Representatives from the Mass Mutual Center, the arena and convention space, said a parking garage under construction across from the facility was making progress. They also announced plans to modify a second entrance to the building, which will make it easier for patrons to enter on their way from the casino.

Updates were also provided on the work taking place at Court Square, a park on the other side of Main Street from the Mass Mutual Center, running parallel to City Hall and Symphony Hall.

And developers working with the city said they are preparing to build out housing units and retail space at three buildings near the casino.

Sarno said the work being done in the city’s center is important for all of Springfield.

“Downtown is a neighborhood and downtowns in America are the heart of the city or town and then the arteries of the surrounding neighborhoods of that city or town," he said

Sarno said another catalyst for the city has been the success at the box office for the Springfield Thunderbirds hockey team, which wrapped up its season over the weekend.

The top minor league club of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues attracted more than 227,000 fans over the course of its 36-game regular season. It averaged 6,321 patrons per game, playing to more than 90% capacity at the Mass Mutual Center.

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.
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