There was no ceremonial groundbreaking. No politicians with shovels and hard hats, no speeches to mark the beginning of construction of the $925 million gambling complex — and the most anticipated development project in Prince George’s County.
But two months after the Prince George’s County Council approved the casino project, heavy machinery has taken over the site fronting the Potomac River at National Harbor. About 100 dump trucks are in and out of the 23-acre parcel at Harborview Avenue, along with 200 workers who are excavating of the site where MGM Resorts International is building its first casino resort in the Washington region.
Crews have already removed more than 300,000 cubic yards of dirt, and a foundation is being built. The concrete walls of the resort’s seven-story parking garage could begin to go up as soon as December, officials said.
“We got out there as soon as we had approvals, and we have been going full speed ahead ever since,” MGM spokesman Gordon M. Absher said. With a deadline to open in two years, there was no time for ceremonial kickoffs. “We are so focused on getting this open in 2016 that . . . we just got started.”
MGM says signs of vertical construction should be visible early next year. The garage will go up first, followed by the main entertainment area, which will have a glass-ceiling conservatory, outdoor terrace and 21-story, 300-room hotel tower.
Whiting-Turner, the general contractor for the project, will oversee dozens of subcontractors and more than 2,000 construction workers over the project’s two-year construction. The number of workers now on site is expected to double to about 400 by the beginning of 2015.
Crews have been at the MGM National Harbor casino site since April doing preparation, including removing power poles, test drilling and leveling the land. Site preparation began even before the casino application was approved.
“Somebody said, ‘when is our groundbreaking.’ At one point I said, ‘Have you seen our site lately? That ship has sailed,’”Absher said.
As construction progresses, MGM says it is building a team for what will be a major gaming operation on the East Coast.
About 200 architects are working on the project, creating plans for the various interior designs and finishes, Absher said. A career fair is planned for early next year to begin the recruitment and training process. The company will need to fill about 4,000 jobs before the casino complex opens.
Although there has been speculation about possible tenants at the resort, MGM has not made any announcements. Earlier this summer, at an MGM job fair, there was mention that Ben’s Chili Bowl could be a likely tenant.
“We have had very good conversations with Ben’s, and they align well with our desire to include some of the best local offerings in our program,” Absher said in June. He wouldn’t say whether a lease has been signed with the landmark D.C. restaurant.
MGM is not likely not make any announcements about tenants until closer to opening, Absher said. The casino complex also will have several celebrity chef-driven restaurants, small boutique-style shops of high-end retailers and a concert theater. The casino will have 3,600 slot machines and 140 gaming tables.