Earth Tower 'a proud accomplishment' for Mohegans

Mohegan — The Mohegan Tribe, intent on celebrating its partnership with the state of Connecticut, hosted a who’s who of elected officials Friday at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for its 400-room Earth Tower hotel.

Rising next to Mohegan Sun, the angular, glass-clad structure will enable the casino to meet some of the demand for overnight stays that exceeds its original tower’s 1,200-room capacity. Casino executives estimate they’ve had to turn away 1 million room nights over the last two years alone.

The Earth Tower stands 13 stories high. The original Mohegan Sun hotel, now dubbed the Sky Tower, is 34 stories.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney joined tribal officials at Friday's event.

“On time and on budget,” Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown said of the $130 million project, which the tribe itself financed.

He said it comes “after a period of delay,” a reference to the years that followed the scrapping of Project Horizon, a 2007 Mohegan Sun expansion plan. That proposed undertaking, whose price tag had grown to $925 million, called for a 39-story hotel tower that would have been the tallest building in Connecticut.

On the cusp of the economic downtown that would become the Great Recession, the Mohegans pulled the plug on that project.

This, Brown said, was the right time to resurrect the second hotel plan, “not just for us, but for the state.”

The Earth Tower project provided 2,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, he said.

Malloy, who had attended the groundbreaking for the Earth Tower project in March 2015, pronounced the new hotel “first class all the way.”

“The tribe should be very proud of this accomplishment,” he said. “For everyone who bet against them — you lost.”

Courtney, too, lauded the Mohegans' tenaciousness.

“This tribe is always in it for the long haul," he said. "Their commitment to this area is eternal.”

He cited the tribe’s agreement earlier this year with the Town of Preston to develop the former Norwich Hospital property.

Blumenthal saluted the tribe’s past and current leadership, calling Mohegan Sun’s growth “a great American success story.”

The new hotel, open for business since last week, includes 39 suites, a spa, a fitness center, advanced in-room technology, ultra-fast Wi-Fi, dual-line telephones and an outdoor terrace area with fire pits. The Bean & Vine Café & Wine Bar is located in the lobby.

The hotel is accessible from the casino's Winter Entrance and from the Sky Tower lobby.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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