SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — The price tag for MGM's planned resort casino in the city continues to climb.
The downtown casino, hotel and entertainment complex had been budgeted at $800 million. Now MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle says the projected cost of the development has ballooned to more than $950 million despite the company's efforts to propose cost-saving design changes.
The casino executive disclosed the new project budget Wednesday at a city forum meant to explain the proposed changes, which have generated concerns among city officials and state gambling regulators who say they've been caught by surprise by some of the changes.
"The reality is that this project will exceed $950 million. I wish it didn't. I wish we could do it for less. But we can't," Hornbuckle said. "We made commitments to this community we are going to honor."
Among the proposed design changes is the elimination of a 25-story hotel tower in favor of a lower-profile building, the moving of an apartment complex outside the development and an overall reduction in the size of the casino complex, which sits on 14.5 acres straddling the city's South End and downtown.
Hornbuckle also disputed reports that the reduction represented a 14 percent cut in the development's square footage. He said it was closer to 10 percent and would largely impact backroom functions such as the employee dining area and loading docks and will not compromise the customer's experience.
One exception, Hornbuckle said, was a reduction in the size of a proposed bowling alley, which will go from 15 lanes to 10. The company also was able to eliminate elevators and stairwells because of the proposed hotel changes, he noted.
The design changes require city and state approval.
MGM hopes to open the casino in the fall of 2018, a year later than initially hoped.
The licensed casino project is among three in the state. Wynn is developing a $1.7 billion resort outside Boston, and Penn National Gaming operates the Plainridge Park racetrack and casino, or racino, in Plainville.