MGM Resorts International via Springfield Republican / AP
Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 | 2:01 p.m.
BOSTON — MGM Resorts International has taken ownership of two city-owned properties in downtown Springfield as it plans to build an $800 million casino there.
City and casino officials confirmed Friday that the Las Vegas-based casino giant closed on the former Zanetti School and the historic Springfield State Armory building Thursday. The final purchase price was $3.2 million — or $1.6 million for each building.
MGM plans to maintain the castle-like facade of the armory, which most recently served as a community center. The school, which closed in 2009, will be demolished. MGM proposes a casino, hotel, shopping and entertainment complex on about 14.5 acres straddling the city's downtown and South End neighborhood.
The purchases come as the project's future remains uncertain. Voters in November will decide whether to repeal the state's 2011 casino law. State gambling regulators awarded MGM the state's first casino license in June, pending the outcome of the casino ballot question.
MGM Springfield spokeswoman Carole Brennan said in statement that the two buildings, which were both badly damaged in during a 2011 tornado, represent "key acquisitions" for the project. The purchases, she said, demonstrate the casino's "eagerness" to fulfill the commitments of its host community agreement with Springfield.
"While others are trying to stop progress, we continue to take the necessary steps that will ultimately allow us to bring jobs and new economic opportunity to Springfield and the region," Brennan said.
Besides the purchase price, MGM also paid the city more than $160,000 to cover property taxes assessed from the time MGM was awarded the parcels and when it closed on them. On top of that, the casino's host community agreement with Springfield calls for more than $15 million in upfront and advance payments as well as more than $25 million in annual payments.