What’s Up at the Intruder: Casino Talk and More

Ta-da!

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See, I made it back;-)

For those wondering what the heck has been going on with the Intruder, read on below for more details.

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Now, on with some updates and observations:

Springfield casino resortMGM Trumps Penn National
Yes, not exactly shocking news to hear that MGM won out over Penn National to be selected by the City of Springfield as their (our?) choice for a western Massachusetts casino resort site. The city’s unions seemed to warm up to MGM early on, and Peter Picknelly’s “we are the local choice” rah-rah speeches never took hold. And I’m sure his attempt at what amounted to redevelopment blackmail didn’t go over well with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, either. I’m still skeptical that a so-called resort will be successful in the impoverished ghetto that is the South End of the city. But what the heck, it can’t be a ghetto forever, can it?

Can it?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of a happy couple coming to Springfield to stay at a casino hotel whose spectacular view includes Bondi’s Island, a slew of used car lots, and Hooker Alley (aka the Main Street-Locust Street Corridor).

Crazy stuff.

In the meantime, let’s not be cracking our egg shells before they’re hatched. We still have an all-important city referendum scheduled for this summer, where the residents get to have their voices heard. MGM recently lobbied for a July vote – heck, they gotta be tired of plunging money into their marketing blitz these past few months. Let’s get on with it!

All referendum votes aside, for my money I’m still thinking Mohegan Sun has the better deal for the state, with loads of expandable acreage in the cozy backwoods of Palmer. In the end, though, the winner of this race will depend on how the state views the contenders. If the state is looking at the casino resort as an urban renewal project, then Springfield and MGM will win. If the state is instead looking for the best long-term investment with the most opportunity to grow, it will side with Mohegan Sun.

But if MGM does win, it would be great to see how my earlier story on how downtown Springfield would fare under its influence will pan out.

Where’s the Beef, Part 2
A couple weeks ago, just days before MGM was announced as the city’s choice to go before the voters as their choice for a casino resort in Western Massachusetts, work began at last on clearing out the old Visitor’s Center on West Columbus Ave to make room for a proposed Luxe Burger Bar. As I’ve written here many times before, it’s been a looong time coming. Are we finally going to see what the city swore we’d be getting all along?

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Yes, there is fencing around the property and a couple dumpsters sitting in the parking lot. But we had that too a few years back across town at the former Chestnut Junior High School building. And today that property’s still sitting there in the North End, rotting in place.

Something may well be going in at the former Visitor’s Center – but it doesn’t have to be a Luxe Burger Bar. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a restaurant. Last time I checked – admittedly a while ago – they still didn’t have a bona fide manager in the fold to run the place. Raipher Pellegrino’s employee/helper/friend/placeholder was still on deck as manager. And you can’t run a restaurant with a retirement advisor.

How to Spend the Winnings?
With a casino in downtown Springfield one step closer to becoming a reality, the debate is on again over what to do with the city’s share of the booty in any Host Agreement. And once again, City Councilor Tim Rooke is proposing putting it towards residential and business tax relief in the city.

“The indirect cost and new monies realized are estimated to be about $25M on a yearly basis,” wrote Rooke in a recent email to the Intruder concerning the Host Agreement. “This [...] over 40 years would be $1 billion.”

The last time he proposed such a plan, Rooke received a somewhat less-than lukewarm response from his colleagues and the mayor. This time around, though, things appear to be looking a little brighter. Lot’s of “off the record” interest is supposedly being tossed around for the idea.

Behind The Black Curtain
And finally, what have I been up to that has kept me away from writing at the Intruder?

Well, as some people who read this blog already know, I have lately been getting back into writing my fiction stories from about twenty years ago. As I mentioned to one reader who asked why “I wasn’t writing anymore,” I have actually been writing more in the past six months than I have in the past several years. It just hasn’t been for this blog.

This past fall-to-spring I started and finished a novella that I began shopping around last month. In between this project, I’ve also been working on a rewrite of a full-length manuscript I first penned back in the mid-1990s. As things turned out, I’ve completely revamped this story with some new characters and a new working title (“Friends and Enemies”). I’m still working on the first draft of this one, so there is a long way to go, yet.

So it’s actually been a very busy past few months for me. And as I told a few people who’ve asked, I’ve found it very difficult to focus on my fiction projects while at the same time continuing to write regularly at the Intruder. For me, the two are an entirely different kind of writing, and it hasn’t been easy trying to switch back and forth. Something had to give.

So while I’m not ready to say I’m taking a hiatus at the Springfield Intruder, I also don’t want to lead people on into thinking this blog is my primary focus in writing these days. It is not.

But who knows how things will be two months from now?

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Walking around downtown, I took note of these lamp-hung banners installed all along the streets these days. Notice the very small QR code that I circled in red in the above photo. That banner is about 12 feet in the air at its lowest point, so how anyone is going to actually be able get their cellphone QR reader to focus on that little thing is beyond me. As users of QR codes know, you pretty much have to be standing right in front of it, with your phone’s reader pointed directly at it, in order for it to work. Fairly poor planning there.

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