MASHANTUCKET, Conn.—The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has broken ground on a new $115 million project at Foxwoods Resort Casino—an upscale factory outlet mall that will create hundreds of jobs, pour millions of dollars of tax revenues into the State of Connecticut’s coffers, and attract customers to the tribe’s gaming facilities as more casino competition is about to heat up in the region.
An official groundbreaking ceremony for Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods took place September 26 and featured drummers, dancers, speeches from dignitaries, and a fashion show under a chandelier-lit tent in front of an audience of more than 300 people. Later, the crowd moved outside for a smudging ceremony before officials put shovels in the ground while a shower of confetti shot from a cannon.
The new mall will be located between Foxwoods Resort Casino's Grand Pequot Tower and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. It will encompass 300,000 square feet and feature more than 80 leading brand name upscale fashion outlet discount stores including American Eagle Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Coach, Fossil, Gap, LOFT, Michael Kors, Nike, Skechers, Steve Madden, Tommy Hilfiger, and more.
The project is expected to create an estimated 400 jobs during construction and approximately 900 full and part-time retail jobs upon completion. Once complete, the center is estimated to generate $10.4 million in annual sales tax.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler thanked key tribal members, Tanger officials and Foxwoods for their work to “solidify this new partnership. . . The groundbreaking reflects a major change to the retail landscape in the region that I believe will result in far-reaching and long-term positive effects on our Tribal Nation, state and local economy. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is proud to be a strong community partner and prouder still to embark on this project as we work toward a bright future."
In sharp contrast to the tribe's phenomenal success in building both the largest casino complex in North America and rebuilding the tribal nation from the gaming revenues, Butler remembered the tribe’s past devastation. He pointed out that September 21 marked the 375th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Hartford—the official end of the Pequot War that decimated the Pequot people. The 17th century Connecticut officials who conducted the war and its aftermath can claim the first massacre of indigenous people, the first ethnic cleansing of Natives, and the creation of the first reservations.
The Treaty of Hartford “said we no longer exist. But we preserved,” Butler said.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy was on hand for the groundbreaking festivities and praised the state’s “partnership” with the Pequot Nation, a new theme in the state’s previously rocky relationship with the Mashantucket Pequots. Malloy congratulated Butler "for all you have done in just the last year," a reference to the tribe's restructuring of its debt and improvements to its existing facilities. The governor’s good wishes do not extend to Connecticut’s three state recognized tribes, however. In August, the governor joined Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s racist anti-Indian campaign against reforming the federal recognition process and the possibility that new rules would grant federal acknowledgement—and the right to open casinos—to the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and the Golden Hill Paugusetts.
Tanger President and CEO Steven B. Tanger said the new outlet at Foxwoods is the first to be connected to a casino. "Foxwoods is a compelling location for our top retail partners who are looking to expand into new markets and reach new customers."
Butler presented Tanger with the gift of a story blanket and Tanger In turn presented the Pequot Museum and Research Center with a donation of $2500.
Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and CEO, said his goal when he arrived nearly three years ago was to restore Foxwoods' stature as "premier destination resort in the western hemisphere.” He called the tribe’s resolution of its multi-billion dollar debt earlier this year “the greatest financial restructuring in gaming history." The restructuring has provided the tribe with the capital to redo Foxwoods' hotel rooms, refurbish its gaming floors and add new restaurants and stores, and to pursue casino projects in Massachusetts, New York and other jurisdictions.
"The gaping hole in our business plan was a fresh shopping experience," Butera said. "When you consider women spend eight years of their lives shopping — most of it in malls …."
Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods is expected to open by the end of 2014.