Mohegan Sun to serve hotel guests who 'Aspire' to rooms on top floors

Project Manager Jason Caron in the refurbished elevator lobby on the 35th floor during a tour of Mohegan Sun's new VIP hotel project 'Aspire'  on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.  Set to open by the end of this year the project transforms the hotel's top floors and opens 'Thirty Three' a new lounge overlooking the Thames River.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Project Manager Jason Caron in the refurbished elevator lobby on the 35th floor during a tour of Mohegan Sun's new VIP hotel project "Aspire" on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Set to open by the end of this year the project transforms the hotel's top floors and opens "Thirty Three" a new lounge overlooking the Thames River. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Mohegan — In less than two weeks, casino-goers are expected to start flocking to Springfield, Mass., home of gaming’s shiniest new object, the nearly $1 billion MGM Springfield, the Bay State’s first full-blown resort casino.

Executives at southeastern Connecticut's casinos have not been sitting on their hands in anticipation. Not by a long shot.

For years, they’ve been planning, investing in and tending to their own establishments, adding amenities and offerings in a process that was in evidence as recently as last week and will continue well into the future. As Ray Pineault, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, noted, it’s all about “differentiators” — products that can separate one casino from another.

“A slot machine, a table game is just a commodity,” Pineault said. “It’s not a differentiator. Everybody’s got one. Our greatest differentiator is the guest experience we offer, the service we provide.”

Toward that end, Mohegan Sun has been converting the top six floors of its 36-story Sky Tower hotel into Aspire at Mohegan Sun, a “hotel within a hotel” that will cater to high-end customers. Workers were toiling on a couple of the floors last week, taking care not to raise too much dust or make too much noise lest they disturb guests on other floors.

Aspire will comprise 93 rooms, each of which is being refurbished from top to bottom. Individual rooms are being removed from service for no more than 12 days so that Mohegan Sun can keep up with demand. The combined occupancy rate of the casino’s Sky and Earth hotels — a total of 1,600 rooms — ranges between 96 and 98 percent, and many would-be guests have to be turned away most weekends, according to Jeff Seidel, director of capital expenditures for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, Mohegan Sun’s corporate parent.

New furnishings, including walnut paneling and back-lit stone, are being installed on each floor’s landing.

On the 33rd floor, “Thirty Three,” a 4,000-square-foot restaurant/lounge is being equipped with chandeliers, fireplaces, a new kitchen, a new buffet station and several table games. If an Aspire guest wants to play blackjack without heading down to the casino floor, it won’t be a problem.

“At this level, they can have whatever they want,” Seidel said. “Roulette? We’ll have a wheel sent up.”

In the weeks ahead, work will begin on the ground floor of the tower where a private check-in area and elevators designated for use by Aspire guests will be prepared.

“It’ll be a direct shot to the Aspire floors,” Jason Caron, the Aspire project manager, said of the elevators.

The hotel-within-a-hotel concept is not new in the hospitality industry, Pineault said, but it’s one that will enable Mohegan Sun to create “a unique experience” for guests that are looking for such an amenity.

“It’s not because we thought we were underserving our high-end customers, but because we wanted to give them something new. And we’re also looking to attract new customers,” he said.

While declining to provide specifics, Pineault said the pricing of Aspire rooms will fluctuate the same way pricing does for existing rooms, albeit at a “higher price point.” When demand is high, say when U2 or Britney Spears is performing in Mohegan Sun Arena, as they recently did, look for prices to soar.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Construction work continues on Thirty Three, a new VIP lounge, during a tour of Mohegan Sun's new VIP hotel project 'Aspire'  on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.  Set to open by the end of this year the project transforms the hotel's top floors and opens the lounge overlooking the Thames River.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Construction work continues on Thirty Three, a new VIP lounge, during a tour of Mohegan Sun's new VIP hotel project "Aspire" on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Set to open by the end of this year the project transforms the hotel's top floors and opens the lounge overlooking the Thames River. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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