25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun

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Mohegan Sun, owned by a 1,100-member Mohegan tribe in southeastern Connecticut. Managed by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, the tribe secured a foundation for the future. On Oct. 12, 1996, Mohegan Sun was born. This year, “Neon Uncasville” marks its 25th anniversary, and we are taking a look at 25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun.

Who Are The Mohegans?

The earliest clans of the Delaware Tribe included the Wolf clan or Mohegans. They settled in upstate New York (not to be confused with the Mohicans, a different tribe). After migrating to Connecticut, this group became today’s Mohegan Tribe.

During the Pequot War in eastern Connecticut, the Mohegans sided with the English in defeating the neighboring Pequots. The interaction between the two tribes has been interesting, to say the least, to this day.

For more on the Mohegan History, click on Our History.

A Related Post – How Did Foxwoods Get So Big?

Federal Recognition and a Casino

The tribe began its campaign for Federal recognition in 1978 but was not granted it until 1992. Meanwhile, Foxwoods led the way, gaining federal recognition in 1986, with a high-stakes bingo hall taking shape and paving the way for Connecticut’s first Casino.

In 1994, The Mohegan Tribe and Kerzner International started the first phase of the Mohegan Sun Casino. They had a Master Plan for this 240-acre site along the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut. The miracle turned an existing 400,000 square foot nuclear propulsion manufacturing facility into a 1.4 million square foot casino complex.

25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun
Mohegan Sun Phase I

State officials estimated at the time that the Mohegan slot machines would generate $370 million in revenues from Jul. 1, 1997, to Jun. 30, 1998. Unfortunately, the joint contribution to the state was only $256,075,852. It would take another five years for the total of both casinos to represent the estimated number in 2003.

What Did The Original Property Look Like In 1996

Compared to today’s massive property, the original project included:

  • a new 600,000 square foot casino building on two levels
  • this area would support 3,800 gaming positions,
  • 180 gaming tables
  • a 1,500-seat bingo hall
  • over 400,000 square feet of parking
  • seven restaurants and
  • supporting entertainment and retail areas.

This initial portion, called Casino of the Earth, pays respect to Indian lore with the rustic wood, tent canvas, four-seasons coloring, and natural design themes of Native America.

But, Where Will Guests Stay?

On the first day, patrons all but overwhelmed the $305 million Casino of the Earth, and talk of expansion soon followed. But, there was a dire need for hotels in the area at this time. Foxwoods second hotel, Pequot Tower was not finished yet, and there were only 20+ hotels in Southeastern Connecticut, compared to over 70 today.

Project Sunburst Plan – 25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun

  • Phase 1, the 500,000 square-foot gaming project, a super-fast-tracked project, completed in just 12 months
  • Phase II, “Project Sunburst”, a 5 million square-foot expansion
    • Includes a 34-story, 1,200-room luxury hotel, meeting and function space including the northeast’s largest ballroom, retail shopping and 9 new restaurants.
    • Also includes a 10,000-seat arena, gaming space, a 300-seat cabaret, a world-class spa, a business center, an indoor pool and an outdoor terrace
  • Phase III, “Project Horizon”, the 1.4 million sf expansion, includes the Casino of the Wind, a House of Blues venue, administrative space, new retail and restaurant space, a Mandara Spa and an adult recreation lounge.
    • Also includes back-of-house area, a 5,300-car parking garage and a 43-story, 1,000 room gold englazed hotel tower

Phase I – The Sky Casino

In September 2001, the new second Casino of the Sky was unveiled. It made Mohegan Sun one of the largest gaming complexes in the world. In addition, it included the world’s largest, fully functional planetarium dome, providing everchanging cosmic displays. Wombi Rock was a multi-level onyx and alabaster rock-like structure that housed a lounge and a dance floor.

Wombi Rock

Gaming enthusiasts could find over 2,200 slot machines and over 100 table games, a 3,000
square-foot high-limit lounge and particular non-smoking gaming area located underneath a giant turtle shell showcasing the Sky.

Two other notable additions were:

  1. Taughannick Falls – a massive waterfall flowing down to Chahnameeds Island a bar/restaurant at the foot of the falls and
  2. The the nearby 25-foot-high glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly, called “River Blue,” is a 10,000-pound masterpiece. Thousands of richly colored glass components, 2,500 in all, were hand-blown by a team of artisans in Seattle, then fully assembled on-site at Mohegan Sun. The distinctive cobalt blue, silver and clear colored glass sculpture later added different alternate colored lighting depending on events and seasons
25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun
River Blue with Taughannick Falls in the background

Phase II – Hotel and Arena Take Center Stage

The Hotel

In 2002, at 480 feet, the Sky Hotel would be the second tallest building in Connecticut, after Hartford’s 535-foot City Place office building. Today, it is the fourth highest.

25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun
Building of the Sky Tower

25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun received a huge lift with the Sky Hotel. The hotel’s glittering 34-story glass towers offer a stunning first glimpse of the Casino to approaching visitors. “Rock and crystal forms that are recurring themes in the Mohegan culture,” said Lloyd Sigal, project manager for the architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox, “is expressed in the high-tech reflective glass curtain wall of the hotel that angles at the edges and top.”

The opening of the 34-story hotel marked the completion of a $1.1 billion “Project Sunburst” expansion. It also had 186 suites and a 40,000 square-foot spa, fitness center, and salon.

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