Just weeks after defending an MGM Springfield redesign scrapping the marquee 25-story glass-tower hotel and proposing instead a street-accessible 6-story hotel that offers the same number of rooms but at a substantially lower build-out budget, MGM officials are now faced with explaining a 14% reduction in size of the entire resort project. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, other city officials as well as state regulators were blindsided by the news.

During a press conference, Sarno stated that he had meet two weeks ago with top MGM officials, that there had been no discussion about changes other than those proposed about the hotel, and that the omission was “incomprehensible.” Springfield City Council President Mike Fenton spoke of his concerns about the impact these changes might have on jobs and revenue. An hour later, MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis held his own new conference and claimed the 14% reduction in size of the $800 million project was merely “design tweaks,” then apologized for not informing the local officials about the changes earlier.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby later released a prepared statement calling the changes “significant” and aligning himself with the community: “Our first priority is to be deferential to the reaction of the host community of these proposals, as mandated by statute, and has been our custom throughout the process.” In addition to the resort size changes, the commission has yet to approve MGM’s prior changes that eliminate the hotel tower.

Changes include a substantive reduction in retail, movie theater, parking, and bowling alley space. Gambling space, however, stays roughly the same. All in all, the total resort square footage reduction proposal totals about 122,534 square feet down from 881,691 to 759,157. Approvals by local and state officials are still to come.

Mathis ended his press conference with, “We remain committed to everything we campaigned for….the largest private economic development project in this region, certainly in Springfield’s history…. 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.”

In the meantime, and while MGM Resort International Springfield deals with delays, neighboring states are racing to open casinos adjacent to the Springfield location so as not to lose casino revenue to the MGM venture.