Palmer, Mass., water park proposed for former Mohegan Sun casino site

By the time local voters rejected it in a 2013 referendum, Mohegan Sun’s plan to build a $1 billion resort casino in Palmer, Mass., had grown to include an indoor-outdoor water park.

It’s an idea whose time might yet come.

Developers are now proposing a $650 million water park-spa and sports complex on a Palmer site that includes the 152 acres Mohegan Sun once hoped to develop. The new proposal, details of which were announced Wednesday, calls for two indoor water parks, an indoor-outdoor sports facility and a hotel, according to Paul Robbins, a spokesman for the development team dubbed Palmer Sports Group.

“Even though the (Mohegan Sun) casino ended up being divisive, the reaction to the water-park proposal was almost universally positive,” Robbins said. “When Mohegan Sun moved on, the landowner was approached by a lot of people, but the idea that kept percolating over and over was the water park.”

Mohegan Sun surrendered its long-term lease of the property in 2014 after investigating nongaming development options. By then, it unsuccessfully had pursued a casino license in the Greater Boston area, its Revere proposal losing out to Wynn Resorts' Everett project.

Robbins said the water-park developers were drawn to the Palmer site for the same reasons Mohegan Sun liked it, mainly its location off Exit 8 of the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) and near Interstate 84.

“With the recent opening of the MGM Springfield casino, this represents a synergistic project that will draw even more visitors to the (Quaboag) Valley, making Palmer the true gateway to all of western Massachusetts,” builder Michael D’Amato, a member of the development team, said in a statement.

D’Amato managed construction of later phases of Foxwoods Resort Casino, including the Grand Pequot Tower, and also worked on Hartford’s City Place, Connecticut’s tallest building.

Other members of the team include project manager Skanska USA, which built Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, and Winthrop "Trip" Knox, who has been involved in the design and construction of more than 3,000 water-related facilities.

Palmer Sports Group says the water-park development would draw visitors from within a 300-mile radius.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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