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MGM confirmed plans to cut the size of its casino development in Springfield by nearly 14 percent Tuesday, a revelation that drew sharp rebuke from Springfield officials who said they were caught by surprise at the latest changes to the $800 million development.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, in a hastily called City Hall news conference, said it was "incomprehensible" that casino officials would have failed to mention the reduction, which translates to about a 122,000-square feet.
Sarno said his administration is closely reviewing the impact the changes would have on the development's promised jobs and revenue.
"I will not approve any changes to the design that have a negative impact," he said.
But casino officials, calling their own news conference just an hour later at their downtown Springfield office, defended the revised 760,000-square-foot casino plan.
MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis promised the proposed changes would not impact the project's cost or revenues. He said "90 percent" of the reduction represents "back of house space" that "does not impact consumers."
"We remain committed to everything we campaigned for," he said. "That is, the largest private economic development project in this region, a billion dollars of payments over four years to the city of Springfield, 3,000 jobs, 2,000 construction jobs and a world class resort. That's all still on the table."
Mathis also apologized for not communicating the changes to the mayor's office earlier, adding that MGM officials expect to meet with City Hall staff soon.
"What you're seeing and feeling right now is the tweaks that come with the design process," he said.
Springfield City Council President Michael Fenton said he's skeptical that the reductions, which require city and state approval, will have no impact on consumers.
"I'd love to hear their argument for how that's the case, based on a 14 percent decrease," he said. "My belief is that some of it is substantive. In the coming days and weeks, we'll find out what some of those are."
The latest cuts were revealed in an over 100-page filing MGM submitted to state environmental regulators late last week and made public Tuesday.
According to the document, the reductions largely impact retail and restaurant space and some back room functions. It will result in a smaller bowling alley and movie theater. Those reductions will be somewhat offset by an increase in food and beverage space and other added spaces.
The cuts come as MGM announced last month a series of major changes, including the elimination of a 25-story hotel tower, an apartment complex and at least one floor of its casino garage, or about 387 parking spaces.
The hotel tower is being replaced by a six-story hotel featuring the same 250 rooms; the apartments are being relocated off the casino development at another site to be determined.
Earlier this year, MGM received city and state approval to delay the casino's opening by a year to September 2018 on account of a major highway project happening nearby.
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