MGM SPRINGFIELD: A SEVEN YEAR CAMPAIGN FOR THE LARGEST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IN HISTORY OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS

 
 

MGM Springfield, a luxury gaming resort in Springfield’s historic South End, is anticipated to open its doors in late summer 2018.  This over $960 million project is the largest private investment in the history of Western Massachusetts and is a driving force behind the ongoing revitalization of downtown Springfield.  The road to a successful opening was long and full of challenges: the process began in 2011, following the signing of extended gambling legislation in the state.  When MGM Resorts International decided to explore opportunities in the region, Ventry was brought on as strategic advisors to help the company’s senior management navigate the state’s multi-faceted selection process.

Ventry helped to facilitate the relocation of the proposed project from an initial location in Brimfield to Springfield, bringing the project to the heart of Pioneer Valley.  Ventry also provided strategic guidance to senior MGM leadership on public relations, media relations, political affairs, and community outreach, as well as crisis communications and rapid response services on statewide, regional, and local issues.  Ventry has worked to build and steward relationships in Springfield and throughout Western Massachusetts, helping to orient MGM Springfield in the local business, political, and cultural network.

With the help of Ventry Associates, MGM Springfield was able to fend off obstacles from all sides, including five competing casino proposals in the region.  In 2013, Mayor Domenic Sarno announced the selection of MGM. The City Council approved the agreement, followed by a citywide referendum vote in which the proposal was approved by 58% of voters. This was ultimately the only successful casino referendum vote in the Western Massachusetts region.

Then again in 2014, the voters had their say, when a referendum attempting to repeal the Expanded Gaming Act was placed on the statewide ballot. Ventry Associates continued to serve MGM in an advisory capacity and worked with the statewide campaign coalition to coordinate support for the gaming law in both western and central Massachusetts. The measure was overwhelmingly defeated, with over 60% of the electorate voting to retain the Gaming Law, opening the path forward for MGM Springfield. 

Ventry Associates continues its work with MGM Springfield, assisting with policy work, communications, community relations, and coordination with construction teams dealing with the particular challenges of building in a dense urban environment. 

MA ALLIANCE OF BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS: THE POWER OF ORGANIZING

 
 

Historically, the 41 members clubs that now comprise the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs sought individual earmark funding for their local organizations through the annual state budget, an inefficient and unpredictable process for obtaining state dollars.

Working in close partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and club officials across Massachusetts, Ventry Associates helped unite these organizations into a single state funding access point and advocacy organization. We then built a lobbying plan to teach clubs how to steward their legislators and created an annual luncheon/lobbying day on Beacon Hill, which remains one of the most successful and well-attended events on the State House’s annual calendar.

Since FY2005, Ventry has secured over $21 million for the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, making it a national model for other state Alliances across the country. Ventry has spoken at multiple national Boys & Girls Club conferences to share this success story and advise others on best practices.

SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS: SOARING TO SUCCESS

 
 

In April 2016, the city of Springfield received devastating news: the Springfield Falcons, the local American Hockey League pro team, were leaving town.  The team was sold to the Arizona Coyotes, leaving Springfield without an AHL franchise for the first time since the 1950s.  City residents and officials braced for a major hit to the downtown economy, with the MassMutual Center slated to remain dark for the 40 game night dates, and restaurants, bars, hotels, and other service providers in the downtown core losing out on potential game-going customers.  

Working with prominent local businesspeople, Ventry Associates helped to assemble a group of 29 owners, made up of local businesspeople and community institutions who valued Springfield’s civic culture and were committed to the city’s success. In a matter of weeks, Ventry Associates helped orchestrate the purchase of the Portland Pirates and the team’s relocation from Maine to Springfield. With only months before opening night to get an entire franchise up and running, Ventry Associates seamlessly handled media and communication matters, consulted on the naming of the team, and organized press conferences and announcements that generated unprecedented interest and excitement in the new franchise.  Ventry Associates has worked with the team to mine the strengths of the large ownership group, coordinating communication between the team and the group and connecting business interests for sponsorships.   Ventry also consults with the team to design and promote events that would center on the game-day experience and attract new fans, coordinating major sponsorship nights, special guests like Red Sox legend David Ortiz, and promos like “Pink in the Rink” and the first-ever “Teddy Bear Toss” in Springfield.  This work over the past two years has culminated in the AHL’s decision to award the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic to the Springfield Thunderbirds.  Ventry worked hand in hand with the team’s front office and ownership group to put together a package and identify a co-promoter in MGM Springfield.  This pitch has brought the All-Star Game to Springfield for the first time in 60 years.

In the Thunderbirds first season, attendance rose by over 50% to 4,664 per game.  In year two, it rose further to 4,985 per game. The team had 3 sold out game nights in Springfield in the first year, and an astonishing 9 sellouts in year two. The Thunderbirds were honored by the AHL for top revenue growth over the 2017 season, sweeping all four categories for the Eastern Conference including overall ticket sales, season-ticket sales, group-ticket sales, and corporate sponsorship sales.  The team was also recognized at the 2017 AHL Marketing Meeting for achieving a greater-than 10% increase in per game Full Season Equivalents, a greater-than 10% growth in corporate cash sponsorships generated in the market, and greater-than 15% growth in per game group ticket sales revenue.  

Heading into year three, the Thunderbirds are poised to be one of the most successful AHL franchises of the future as the team continues building their success, working to reactivate downtown Springfield, and growing an enthusiastic fan base to sustain the team for years to come.