WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — After much speculation, officials at the Eastern States Exposition have announced they are partnering with Hard Rock International for a possible casino.
At a star-studded event late Friday morning, which included a performance from 80′s rocker and reality television star Bret Michaels, plans for the Hard Rock Resort and Casino New England were announced.
The project would be built across 38 acres in the existing parking lot off of Gate 9, near the Mallory Complex.
Jim Allen from Hard Rock International says that the project is valued between $700-800 million. It would include an approximately 400 room hotel, 200,000 square foot gaming floor with 2,500 to 3,000 slot machines and over 100 table games, and 25,000 square foot convention center would be built on the site of the Eastern States Exposition.
While Allen couldn’t disclose some of the restauranteurs committed to the West Springfield, he added that some of the top names in business have said that “they’re in” to the West Springfield project.
The project is expected to create about 2,000 jobs, and Allen reiterated Hard Rock’s desire to hire local residents first.
There would be an indoor live concert venue, and the current outside concert area at the Big E would be renovated and updated as part of the project.
Parking would be addressed through a multi-story parking facility.
Eugene Cassidy, President and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, calls the relationship with Hard Rock International “a match made in heaven” and that this project will help “preserve the past and ensure the future” of the fairgrounds as it heads towards its 100th anniversary in 2016.
Cassidy adds that a casino project “1,000 yards over the bridge” in Springfield would pose a threat to the future of Eastern States Exposition.
The 17 day fair would continue in the fall if a casino was built on the 175 acre fairgrounds.
One of the big questions about the proposed project surrounds traffic concerns. It was announced that Tighe and Bond had been hired to conduct a traffic study and whether other access to the site would be needed in addition to access off of Memorial Drive.
Also, Hard Rock notes that they are committed to giving back to the communities they serve, and as such, Hard Rock will be donating $25,000 and Allen will add another $10,000 donation to each of three organizations including the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Farm Aid, and to the Parish Cupboard in West Springfield.
Hard Rock joins a list of three other firms that have expressed interest in building a casino in Western Massachusetts.
MGM Resorts International has made a pitch to build a casino in Springfield’s South End, while Penn National Gaming, in partnership with Springfield businessman Peter Picknelly, is proposing a casino in Springfield’s North End.
Mohegan Sun is also looking to build on a site located just off of Exit 8 of the Mass. Pike.
The deadline for any casino developer to submit their proposal and the $400,000 non-refundable application fee to the state’s gaming commission is Tuesday, January 15.
Hard Rock announced Friday that they have submitted their application fee to the state, while MGM and Penn National had submitted their application fees on an earlier date.