A world apart from Connecticut’s rural casino destinations, MGM Springfield sits just off the highway, flanked by city streets and older buildings, with free parking in a seven-level, self-park garage and casino and restaurant doors that open to city streets.
The nonsmoking property (a huge plus) features pleasant architectural features and wings of shops on-site. The 2 million-square-foot resort’s alterations have been subtle and ongoing, in jobs and resort offerings, as it works to find a comfortable and profitable niche.
Some of the coolest elements of MGM are sublime built-ins, a result of designers and MGM listening to locals about the city’s history and character. There are nods to literature and industrial contributions in its boutique hotel and castle-looking Armory building behind the casino that was restored and is now used mainly as its Roar comedy club.
“We rescued skylights, bank vaults, exterior facades from crumbling buildings,” MGM CEO James Murren said at the casino’s opening, noting that workers also moved an entire church to a new location.
Gaming and entertainment
The resort has about 2,550 slot machines crammed into its casino space with about 120 table games. Mohegan and Foxwoods each have about double those numbers. (Understandable, since MGM designers had to contend with a more crowded city space.) The hungry machines are the most modern versions, so that’s a plus.
A back-of-the-Armory plaza hosts outdoor concerts and other family events, which is nice and will total more than 25 events this year. Inside the Armory, the comedy club operates mostly on weekends.
MGM is also programming the 8,000-seat MassMutual Center nearby, where 250 displaced folks were once housed after the tornado. Stevie Wonder performed there in September and Aerosmith is booked for four dates in August. There are also a few events at Symphony Hall, a historic Greek Revival venue. (Aziz Ansari brings his Road to Nowhere Tour to the hall July 6.) Both venues are a walk away from the casino’s free parking. A multiplex movie theater is filled with recliners and a fancy bar.
Where Connecticut’s casinos have been on a multiyear building spree due to increasing competition, MGM is relying on its patio summer concerts Thursdays-Saturdays (The Fab Four July 5, Warrant and Firehouse July 27) and a few other touches, including its Topgolf Swing Suite, located in a small retail wing.
A visit on a Tuesday evening in late May shows a modest crowd of visitors, with the addition of the hefty summer stage on the rear patio, rental bicycles in a partnership with Valley Bike Share and a food truck or two outside advertising Food Truck Fridays.
Restaurant options range from two fancier sit-down restaurants — Chandler Steakhouse (an image of Springfield-born Theodor Geisel of “Dr. Seuss” fame hangs on the bar wall) and Cal Mare (a bit bright and close to the gaming floor) with “Southern Coastal Italian” cuisine — to the popular TAP Sports Bar (good tavern food, great decor with an affordable beer flight and 10 popular bowling lanes). There’s also a tasty (if compact) food court called South End Market, with lobster rolls, grilled meals, wine, espresso and noodle dishes. We find a surprisingly good bacon and egg sandwich at Bill’s Diner there.
The resort in June began the welcome addition of a Sunday buffet for brunch and dinner, with full-service bar, in the 5,600-square-foot Bellagio Ballroom (about $20 for brunch, $25 for dinner for adults, less for children). An earlier tweak to food offerings was the addition of a Sunday brunch at Cal Mare, too.
The bars around the property include the relaxed Commonwealth, to one side of the casino floor, The Knox Bar (named for the guy who built the historic Springfield Armory) and the hotel’s classy Lobby Bar, which has themed drinks made with New England spirits. It’s a great place for a leisurely cocktail and chat with a friendly bartender. And as part of the property’s list of “You Said, We Did” suggested changes, some weekend entertainment has been added to the Lobby Bar.
Indian Motorcycle, a Springfield point of pride, is one shop in the small retail wing of the rear plaza; Hannoush Jewelers is another. The High Gothic-style church on the property was moved to one end of the plaza and now houses Kringle Candle Emporium. Tourists to the Bay State know that Kringle is based in Bernardston, up I-91 a ways and north of the iconic Yankee Candle. You can also get beer and dessert in the shop.
The industrial-chic, tech-savvy hotel’s interior walls are decorated in dark, comfy colors with nods to the city’s literary history, visually referencing Dr. Seuss, Emily Dickinson and the Merriam-Webster dictionary. You’ll see hotel pillows with Dickinson quotes or notice excerpts from her work spelled out in carpets in the corridors. At 252 rooms, it’s a quaint capacity compared to the thousands of rooms in Connecticut’s “casino country,” but the hotel is a plus for history and literary buffs. And there are a few luxury suites with high-end touches that sit on a lovely plaza near an outdoor pool.
The Spa at MGM Springfield, the second floor of the resort, offers seven treatment rooms including one couples room as well as men’s and women’s locker rooms equipped with steam rooms and relaxation areas. Treatments include the usual massages, facials and waxing.
There’s The Loop — a trolley system that connects all the downtown Springfield attractions, including MGM, museums, the Basketball Hall of Fame and Union Station. For Connecticut residents, you can catch a train from Bridgeport, New Haven or Hartford and get dropped off at Union Station and then hop The Loop direct to MGM Springfield, or walk 15 minutes up the street to the property.
Upcoming Events at MGM Springfield
Schedule subject to change. See mgmspringfield.mgmresorts.com for details.
* Event takes place at The Plaza
‡ Event takes place at Symphony Hall
June 21: Celebrity Psychic Tyler Henry
June 21: Matt and Kim*
June 22: Pound 4 Pound fitness training*
June 23: Air Supply‡
June 29: Terry Fator‡
June 29: The Village People*
July 5: The Fab Four*
July 6: Aziz Ansari‡
July 13: WWE Live: Summerslam Heatwave Tour*
July 13: Christine Hurley
July 16: Psychic Medium Matt Fraser
July 20: Steve Sweeney
July 20: Misterwives*
July 27: Warrant / Firehouse*
August 2: Rodney Carrington‡
August 3: High Hopes Music & Arts Festival*
August 16: Billy Currington*
August 21, 24, 26, 29: Aerosmith*
August 23: LoCash*
August 24: Tony V and Jimmy Dunn
August 31: Brian Glowacki
September 12: Steve Martin and Martin Short‡
September 13: Crash Test Dummies / Spin Doctors / The Verve Pipe*
September 12, 14: Alex Hooper
September 20: Dropkick Murphys*
September 22: Boyz II Men‡
October 3-5: Eleanor Kerrigan
October 10-12: Leonard Ouzts
October 24-16: Corey Rodrigues
November 7-9: Mark Normand
December 7: Lewis Black
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