A touch of Las Vegas sits mere minutes from the nation’s capitol. After two years of construction and $1.4 billion, MGM National Harbor spent the week, prepping for a much-anticipated Dec. 8 opening that brings with its stellar branding and thousands of sustainable jobs to a region struggling to regain its economic stronghold.
Along with the construction of the establishment’s 308 room hotel, 3,000-seat theater, 125,000-square-foot casino, and 18,000 square feet of retail, MGM has hired or offered jobs to more than 3,800 people – 46 percent of the employees are Black and reside in Prince Georges County.
The MGM National Harbor Casino is set to open to the general public on Dec. 8. (Photos by Rob Roberts)
During a preview tour of the complex, Gordon M. Absher, vice president of Corporate Communications, said that the goal with hiring county residents was to ensure that their training would allow them to join an established industry and succeed within it.
“MGM is a brand that matters and those who come to us, remember how they were treated – the smiles, the attention to detail, the overall positive experience – and we wanted to train new employees on how we do things,” Absher told the AFRO. “We also wanted to ensure our workforce thrives and grows within the organization.”
Absher said the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency issued roughly 1,500 casino-related licenses for the resort. And the employment center at the former Thomas Addison Elementary School on Oxon Hill Road trained residents as casino workers – including blackjack, poker and roulette workers.
The 24-story resort offers 15 restaurants – including famous Harlem chef Marcus Samuelsson’s 24-hour restaurant. Marcus, said the restaurant mirrors his Red Rooster brasserie, including live music and an outdoor dining area. Additionally, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, originally from Frederick, Md., will open their first joint restaurant, Steak House, and José Andrés is opening a themed, seafood-only restaurant called Fish within the same track.
“It is unique to cook food that guests will enjoy in their hotel rooms while lying in bed or sitting on a couch, instead of in a traditional restaurant setting. The cooking has to be even more personal,” said Samuelsson. “That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to create a special in-room experience that guests at MGM National Harbor will not soon forget.”
MGM National Harbor Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations Alison Bybee said, “We want MGM National Harbor to be a true culinary destination. Whether guests are dining at a restaurant, at a bar, or even in their room, they are going to experience something spectacular. Chef Samuelsson’s oversight of our in-room dining menu not only elevates the standard of our food and beverage program, but continues to push the boundaries for culinary excellence within the Capital Region.”
For those with a sweet tooth, the pastry shop Bellagio Patisserie, located in the hotel’s conservatory, will house a running fountain of 4,000 pounds of dark, white, and milk chocolate, making it the world’s largest chocolate fountain.
For those with concerns about traffic – the resort is expected to bring an estimated 20,000 visitors into the area daily – officials urge visitors to consider using ride-share services such as Uber or taxis, the new Oxon Hill Road extension (rather than 295), the Metro, or the new water taxi service, Potomac RiverBoat, which operates between Old Town Alexandria (right behind the Torpedo Factory) and National Harbor.
“After years of planning, designing, and developing, we are thrilled that the moment is almost upon us to share this very special resort with the community and visitors from around the world,” said Lorenzo Creighton, president of MGM National Harbor. “We are grateful to Prince George’s County, the state of Maryland, and all of the local designers, artisans, and businesses that have collaborated with us to deliver this international resort with very local roots.”