SPRINGFIELD — Signs of the Valley are so well tucked into the decor of MGM Springfield, local visitors could make a game of finding memorabilia and Western Massachusetts shoutouts throughout the new casino resort and hotel opening Friday.
On Thursday, MGM held a news conference in the $960 million complex to introduce the media, area officials, community leaders and politicians to the resort, which includes slot machines, table games, restaurants, shopping, a bowling alley, bars, concert space and movie theaters.
Parts of Western Massachusetts are well-represented throughout the resort: wood etchings by Springfield artist Asa Chaffetz in the hallway; an 1888 portrait of every Freemason in Springfield in a lobby; Dr. Seuss books in the library-themed bar, and glass windows and domes salvaged from local buildings on the walls.
Other features include the Springfield Armory facade, the 1887 French Congregational Church that was relocated from Bliss Street to the resort for MGM; the names of local towns woven into the pit's carpet; an Indian Motorcycle mural behind the outdoor concert space; Iron Duke beer on draft; tin ceiling tiles; and doughnuts from Mrs. Murphy's of Southwick.
This casino, which opens at 11 a.m., is uniquely Western Massachusetts. The whole place is styled New England-rustic, with a lot of wood, natural colors and antiques.
"Springfield took a chance on us," MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said at Thursday's event. "And I promise, it will be worth it."
Berkshire County gets a few specific nods from MGM, with town names in the carpet and a top mention on the website's local attractions page. MGM has pledged to spend $50 million annually with local vendors, principally in Springfield, but in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties as well. A list of contracted local vendors is expected to be released sometime after the opening.
So far, MGM has brought 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 hospitality jobs to Springfield. On Thursday, employees were putting the finishing touches on the casino: wiping down slot machines, dusting and getting pumped for the opening.
In the afternoon, a pit cleaning crew was getting an enthusiastic pep talk about customer service.
"Springfield employees are the best I've ever seen," said a Las Vegas executive to a staff of about 20.
"I want to see everybody's teeth," the executive said, adding with a laugh: "If you don't have some, go buy some."
The opening of MGM Springfield has been a long time coming. The project began in 2011, when Massachusetts announced that it would usher in legal casino gambling with the availability of three initial licenses, one for each area of the state.
What followed were rounds of city votes, negotiations with the mayor and City Council as well as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and campaigning to win over Springfield residents and then the licensing commission. There was a groundbreaking ceremony in 2015, and today, MGM will open to the public.
Among the people in attendance Thursday were Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Stephen Crosby, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, local businessman Paul Picknelly, state representatives, Springfield city councilors and Ethel Griffin, associate director at Revitalize Community Development Corp.
Griffin, who spoke at the event, said she wasn't always in favor of MGM or any casino coming to Springfield, but she said her mind was changed after learning about the jobs and prosperity the resort could bring to the city. What put her over the edge, though, was MGM's apparent dedication to Springfield.
"This is a special day and a good time for us. I am so excited by this project," she said.
When Mathis "promises something — he promised to go out into the community and he went out and actually helped people. He got out of his three-piece — or today, it's a two-piece — suit and in his bluejeans and he was raking yards, painting houses. I've been pleased and impressed to see all the groups working together."
Kristin Palpini can be reached at email@example.com, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, 413-629-4621.