After years of diminishing profits and an increasingly saturated gaming market, diversification has become the goal for Connecticut’s casinos. On May 21, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Casinos opened a Tanger Outlets in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler said, “This is that first major step to go beyond gaming.” With a smile he added, “A BIG step.”
Six years ago, Foxwoods asked Sheldon Gordon of the Gordon Group to find an innovative way to create a link between the Foxwoods Casinos and outlet shopping. Gordon envisioned a bridge between the Grand Pequot Tower and the Fox Tower Casinos, one that would hold 85 stores of the kind of high-end, brand name items so popular in Connecticut.
“Everybody said I was crazy. As soon as somebody said it can’t be done, that really gets my juices flowing, and it can be done,” Gordon said.
Steven Tanger, president and chief executive officer of Tanger Factory Centers, Inc., called the $115 million project an engineering marvel. The area described as stone and air only 18 months ago now connects the casinos above the parking areas. Entrance to the shopping center is accessible only through the casinos.
On May 21, the doors leading into the 300,000 square foot Tanger Outlets opened to thousands of visitors and shoppers. Hundreds lined up in front of the gated discount H&M store, hundreds more waited outside famed shops such as Lucky Brand and Ann Taylor on the first floor.
Before the gates to the shops were opened, at least 200 guests, many of whom had attended a celebration gala the night before, gathered for the speakers and ribbon cutting. Drew and Jonathan Scott, twin siblings and stars of the popular Canadian based HGTV television show, “The Property Bothers,” and local celebrity Sonia Baghdady kept the glamorous smiles and flirtatious jokes coming while other speakers lauded the opportunities the new center will bring to the tribe and the state.
Tanger chanted off facts and figures like a mantra: the center will bring in $10.4 million in state sales tax. The 400 construction jobs created by building the center have been replaced by 900 full and part time jobs. Tanger said he represented “150 members of our team in North Carolina, 600 members of our team from coast to coast in 47 different centers across the U.S. and Canada. We have created 35,000 jobs in the 35 years we have been in business.”
“This is the first indoors Tanger outlet (in the U.S.) and the first to be attached to an existing resort casino. Tanger Outlets makes Foxwoods the shopping destination in New England and helped make us the hotel and resort destination in the Northeast,” beamed Annette DuBois, Vice president of Retail Development, Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Calling the center’s opening “a milestone in our history,” Mashantucket Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said, “Annette DuBois, in a very short time, has changed the landscape of retail at Foxwoods. You are very special.”
Tanger expressed excitement at the “first of its kind facility which brings together gaming and shopping, or as we like to call it, high rollers meets high fashion at the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods. Win big in the casino, earn lots of points, and then come spend it all right here before you leave.” Points won in the casino can be redeemed at most of the stores.
Besides the Property Brothers, who presented home design workshops throughout Thursday’s opening celebration, a multitude of other events were planned for the Grand Opening weekend. On Friday, Nik Walenda of the famous “Flying Walendas,” walked a death defying 800-foot long, 80-foot high tightrope from the Foxwoods Hotel to the Tanger Outlets. Walenda is from Sarasota Florida, and travels all over the world as a performer. His most memorable walks was across the Grand Canyon, 1,500 feet high and 1,400 feet long.
On Saturday, a concert by singer Pitbull was held at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods. Dancers from dfx Entertainment, wearing flowered headpieces and colorful leotards, swirled, twirled and posed for selfies with shoppers and guests.
Tanger promised the audience that they could count on the center being a good neighbor. “Throughout the year we host on-site events for schools and local and national organizations working to find a cure for breast cancer, and we are looking forward to partnering with organizations that change lives, right here in our community.” Baghdady announced that Tanger Outlets promised to donate $10,000 to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center Foundation.
After reading a proclamation from the Governor Dannel Malloy, Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman enthused, “God bless you all, and shop!”