Waterford native to take on region's casinos as MGM Springfield executive

Waterford native, Talia Spera has been named executive director of arena operations for MGM Springfield, the nearly $1 billion resort casino scheduled to open this September in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of MGM Springfield)
Waterford native, Talia Spera has been named executive director of arena operations for MGM Springfield, the nearly $1 billion resort casino scheduled to open this September in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of MGM Springfield)

A Waterford native, Talia Spera has paid more than a few visits to southeastern Connecticut’s casinos.

She never expected she’d be competing against them one day, though.

Spera, 30, recently was named executive director of arena operations for MGM Springfield, the nearly $1 billion resort casino scheduled to open this September in Massachusetts. For years, its coming has been on the radar of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, which have long dominated the entertainment scene in southern New England.

“I do find it ironic,” Spera said Thursday in a phone interview. “I grew up going to those casinos. They’ve monopolized the region for some time. But it’s a new day. We plan to be the entertainment hub of Springfield.”

“I’m very familiar with what they do and the type of entertainment they try to attract,” she said, referring to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

Spera graduated from Waterford High School in 2005 and headed to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where she obtained undergraduate and master of public administration degrees. She’s spent more than seven years in the entertainment industry, five of them at SevenVenues in Norfolk, an entity incorporating a 12,000-seat arena, four theaters, an outdoor festival park and a minor league baseball stadium.

Before joining MGM Resorts International, Spera spent two years with Spectra Venue Management, running the event services department for the University of Massachusetts’ Mullins Center Arena in Amherst. She's also worked as a booking manager for such MGM Resorts’ properties as The Theater at MGM National Harbor outside Washington, D.C., the Borgata in Atlantic City and MGM Grand Detroit.

In Springfield, Spera’s turf already includes the 8,000-seat MassMutual Center, which MGM Springfield is managing. When the casino opens, she’ll also be responsible for programming for some 100,000 square feet of space on the MGM Springfield "campus," including lounges and an outdoor plaza.

As part of its commitment to the City of Springfield, the casino also will book events for Symphony Hall and CityStage, city-owned venues with 1,800 and 500 seats, respectively, Spera said. 

Spera spent much of her youth on Waterford soccer fields that have been named in honor of her grandfather, Vittorio I. Spera, a semi-professional soccer player who grew up in Italy and helped found the Waterford Soccer Club. He died in 2004.

Talia’s father, Tony Spera, has coached a variety of sports at various levels in town for more than two decades, including, most recently, the Waterford High School girls’ basketball team.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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