After months of speculation, Hard Rock International has officially announced plans to develop a resort casino complex on the fairgrounds of the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield.
The announcement was made Friday on the Big E fairgrounds during a "red carpet" event that also featured rocker Bret Michaels and a slew of rock and roll memorabilia.
The resort casino would be developed on 38 acres of property on the Big E fairgrounds. Hard Rock officials say the construction would be completed in one phase. Preliminary plans include a 200,000 square foot casino which would feature 2,500 to 3,000 slot machines and between 100 and 125 table games. Also planned is a high-end hotel which would feature between 400 and 500 rooms. The site would also feature a Hard Rock Café along with a live music venue, plus retail space and meeting space.
ESE President and Chief Operating Officer Eugene Cassidy confirmed that conversations about with casino developers began in late fall, with discussions eventually turning to the Hard Rock brand. Cassidy said plans to move forward with a casino bid were unanimously approved twice by the Big E's board of directors.
In his remarks Cassidy acknowledged that if a casino were to be built less than two miles away in Springfield, the economic impact could threaten the Big E's future. Cassidy added that a partnership with Hard Rock would ensure the continued viability of the fair as it approaches its 100th anniversary.
Both Cassidy and Hard Rock International president Jim Allen emphasized that a casino at the Big E would not change the fair, or other events held on the fairgrounds, in any way. Both organizations say traffic issues will play a key part in future discussions.
Prior to the announcement, Hard Rock International submitted a proposal and the required $400,000 application fee to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Hard Rock International has researched several sites in which to build a western Massachusetts casino over the last year, including Holyoke and Springfield. Preliminary plans to develop a casino near I-91 in Holyoke fell through after several discussions with Mayor Alex Morse, who was opposed to casino developments at the time.
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