Foxwoods breaks ground for outlet mall

A groundbreaking ceremony at  Foxwoods Resort and Casino for the new Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods, was held Thursday.
Tim Martin/The Day A groundbreaking ceremony at Foxwoods Resort and Casino for the new Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods, was held Thursday.

Mashantucket — The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe hosted a groundbreaking Thursday for the long-awaited outlet mall linking Foxwoods Resort Casino's Grand Pequot Tower to MGM Grand at Foxwoods, a $120 million project promising 400 temporary construction jobs and, when completed, more than 900 permanent full- and part-time jobs.

The more than 300,000-square-foot mall will contain more than 80 stores, some of which were revealed for the first time.

Steven B. Tanger, president and chief executive officer of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, one of the project's development partners, read a list of tenants, as models wearing the stores' merchandise strode before an audience of invitees. The list included American Eagle Outlets, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, The Loft, Michael Kors, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger.

Tanger said that, depending on the weather, the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods would open in November 2014 or the spring of 2015.

"It'll be the eighth wonder of the world if we pull it off," he said.

The project, first announced in February 2012, presented some design challenges, Tanger said, and may be unique.

"To the best of my knowledge, it's the first outlet center attached to a casino anywhere in the country — probably in the world," he said. "It's a test. If it works out here, we may try to do it in other locations."

Tanger Outlets, based in Greensboro, N.C., operates an outlet center off Interstate 95 in Westbrook. It's partnering on the Foxwoods project with Gordon Group Holdings of Greenwich and hopes to take advantage of the millions of visitors Foxwoods attracts annually, particularly the non-gambling spouses of gamblers as well as locals eager for a new shopping experience. The mall's brand-name manufacturers will offer merchandise at a savings of 30 percent to 70 percent off retail prices.

The stores will be accessible only from inside the casino, Tanger said.

Foxwoods' nearby gaming competitor, Mohegan Sun, plans to break ground this year on a $50 million retail expansion of its own. It announced plans in June to add 200,000 square feet of space for a food pavilion, a 14-screen movie theater, an upscale bowling facility and shops.

After a program that included the fashion show, which followed remarks by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Mashantucket tribal leaders joined casino officials and developers' representatives at the construction site. Confetti shot from a cannon as the lineup, wearing hard hats, tossed earth with golden shovels.

Malloy, who touted the state's "partnership" with the Mashantuckets, congratulated tribal Chairman Rodney Butler "for all you have done in just the last year," apparently a reference to the tribe's completing a major restructuring of its long-term debt, ongoing improvements to Foxwoods' existing facilities and plans to extend the brand into other states.

Butler noted that last Saturday was the 375th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Hartford, which marked the end of the Pequot War, a conflict that decimated the tribe.

"It said we no longer exist," Butler said. "… But we've persevered."

Butler and Tanger exchanged gifts, and Tanger also presented Butler with a $2,500 donation to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Sonia Baghdady, a Channel 8 anchorwoman, served as master of ceremonies.

Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and CEO, said his goal when he arrived nearly three years ago was to restore Foxwoods' claim to being the "premier destination resort in the western hemisphere."

"We knew we had been that before and could be again if we could get ourselves out of financial trouble," he said.

The "greatest financial restructuring in gaming history," he said, has provided the tribe with the capital to redo Foxwoods' hotel rooms, refurbish its gaming floors and add new restaurants and stores, and to pursue casino projects in Massachusetts, New York and other jurisdictions.

"The gaping hole in our business plan was a fresh shopping experience," Butera said. "When you consider women spend eight years of their lives shopping — most of it in malls …"

He credited Sheldon Gordon of the Gordon Group for helping conceive the outlet mall project and for landing as a partner Tanger Retail Outlets, which Butera called "the premier operator in this space."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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