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Marking the 20th anniversary of Mohegan Sun, I interviewed Ray Pineault, President and General Manager, to discuss the opening and evolution of the property, celebration plans over the next many months, top-tier suites, dining, the perfect getaway itinerary and much more.
Tell me a little bit about the history and evolution of Mohegan Sun since it opened in 1996.
Mohegan Sun opened its doors twenty years ago in October 1996 on the Mohegan Tribal Reservation, located on the bank of the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut. When we first opened, we were primarily a gaming and entertainment complex; however, over the past twenty years, we developed our product into what we like to think of as a ‘resort destination,’ with one of the largest casinos in the United States. Four years after the grand opening, we announced “Project Sunburst,” an expansion project now recognized as one of the largest private developments on the East Coast. The project was executed in phases, first of which was finalized in 2001 with the unveiling the new 115,000 square foot Casino of the Sky, as well as a 130,000 square foot retail and restaurant promenade with 30 new retail shops and 12 dining options, a 10,000 square foot Arena, a 300-seat Cabaret Theater, and Kid Quest, a youth entertainment center. At this stage, Mohegan Sun was the second largest casino in the world with over 300,000 square feet of gaming space. Once the project was completed in the spring of 2002, it also included the addition of 1,200 hotel rooms, meeting space, the Northeast’s largest ballroom, a spa, indoor pool, a professionally managed business center and an outdoor sun terrace.
This November, we are excited to have opened the all-new Earth Tower, which adds 400 more hotel rooms to Mohegan Sun’s property, each with luxurious amenities, a modern design and fantastic views of the river. In June of this year, we also announced a two-year $50 million renovation project for Sky Tower. Part of this initiative includes a multi-million dollar revamp and re-branding of the property’s existing spa, combined with a completely new Spa as part of the new Earth Tower hotel.
Now, as you celebrate your 20th anniversary, what special events and plans are underway?
Twenty years is a significant milestone, so we wanted our guests to see how far we’ve come. As one of the largest single grossing revenue properties in the United States, we average over 60,000 guests each weekend. Aside from having an award-winning property and casinos, our Arena is now ranked consistently among the top venues in the world.
We had an action-packed month of celebrations throughout October to commemorate the property’s 20th Anniversary milestone, with more than 50 events for all resort guests and music fans to enjoy. In just one month, we hosted performances by Tim McGraw, Bruno Mars, Fergie, Sam Hunt, Sia, Carrie Underwood, KISS and more in our Arena, along with comedy shows from Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Dave Attell and Dane Cook. Our month-long celebration also featured free concerts from talent such as LL Cool J in our Wolf Den, and live Q&A events where fans could get up-close and personal with their favorite celebrities such as Jojo Fletcher & Jordan Rodgers from The Bachelorette, Clive Standen from Vikings, and some of Bravo TV’s Real Housewives.
For a truly luxurious weekend, how would you describe the top-tier suites of the property, and what makes the Royal Suite so unique?
At Mohegan Sun, we’re committed to providing all our guests with an unforgettable stay. Guests who have the opportunity to stay in our Premium Suites, such as the Royal Suite, receive star treatment from the moment they arrive on the property. Whether they arrive by car or helicopter, our VIP guests are all greeted by a dedicated staff, escorted to a private check-in area and then to their luxurious suites, which come with 24/7 personal butler service!
The Royal Suite measures 3,500 square feet and has two master bedrooms, Jacuzzis, steam showers, a stocked bar and full kitchen with pantry that can be used for personalized meals, delivered by our talented culinary team led by Chef Doucette. Guests who stay with us in the Royal Suites can enjoy in-room dining and favorite foods from our broad selection of restaurants, including a lobster from Summer Shack, their favorite steak from Michael Jordon’s Steak House or Bar Americain, or their favorite Italian dish from Todd English’s Tuscany or Ballo Italian Restaurant. Guests just looking to relax in their suite can listen to the music of their choice on our Bluetooth Pandora system while enjoying a glass of top class wine or their favorite cognac, bourbon or scotch provided by their personal butlers.
In terms of dining, what kinds of restaurants do you have on site, and what are some the signature dishes and cocktails you would recommend?
We have more than forty dining options from a variety of cuisines and price points available for our guests seeking an upscale experience. I personally recommend BALLO Italian Restaurant, which offers exceptional and authentic cuisine in an atmosphere inspired by the San Galgano in Tuscany. Along with a great wine and spirits menu, Executive Chef Shaun Golan believes in using only fresh, locally-grown produce and Italian staples to create truly delicious meals. Take a tip from an insider and ask for items on the secret menu by name, like the Truffle Macaroni and Cheese – it is phenomenal! Other favorite dishes include their Margarita Pizza, the Garganelli, (which is sweet sausage and broccoli rabe, tossed in roasted garlic and olive oil), or the Chicken Francese with fingerling potatoes.
We also have a number of celebrity chef-inspired restaurants, such as Bobby Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace and Bar Americain, known for their delicious plates such as the barbecued Duck with Johnnycakes. Todd English’s Tuscany is another on site dining option that features a rustic, Tuscany-themed setting. I recommend their signature flatbread pizzas for an appetizer and their Tuscan Grill prime rib eye as an entrée – it’s a great dish! For guests craving something sweet, Mohegan Sun also has the first-ever Sweet Room created by TLC’s Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, where many of our guests come after dinner to have over-the-top plated desserts and drinks.
Out of all the options Mohegan Sun has to offer, my personal favorite would be a visit to VISTA Lounge at Wombi Rock. It has a truly magnificent view of our Sky Casino and a really great atmosphere with good music. Their cocktail offerings are some of the best we have on-property!
Finally, for those planning a weekend getaway to Mohegan Sun later this year, how would you carve out their perfect itinerary?
Since we’re a great drive-to-market for guests traveling in the Northeast, Mohegan Sun is definitely a perfect weekend escape option. The entire resort is surrounded by beautiful New England scenery and sits on the Thames River, making it an awesome setting to catch the sunrise during your drive in. During your check-in, ask our staff about any special events occurring for that weekend. There’s always something going on! They’ll be more than glad to get you tickets to one of our exclusive concerts, comedy shows or any dinner reservations you’d like.
After you’re all settled into your room, I recommend you take a walk around the casino floor to check out the beautiful handcrafted stained glass and towering glass sculptures across our resort. Our indoor planetarium at Wombi Rock is also one of the largest in the world and has fiber-optic displays of the sun, moon and stars that are constantly changing. After you take in the scenery, grab a bite to eat at one of our casual dining spots for lunch and a drink and then head over to our Elemis Spa for a relaxing treatment. Try one of the signature spa ceremonies, such as Dream, which leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for the rest of your visit.
After you’ve had some time to unwind, enjoy your dinner reservation, followed by a concert by one of your favorite performers at Mohegan Sun Arena. We also host artists in our Wolf Den and stand-up in COMIX. Afterwards, go for a dance and a night-cap at any of our nightlife hotspots, such as Avalon, Vista Lounge, Mist, or The Lansdowne.
Sleep in after a long night out before enjoying brunch at Hash House A Go-Go on Sunday, where you can taste some of the best chicken and waffles around. Visit any or all of the resort’s three seasonally inspired casinos, Casino of the Earth, Casino of the Sky and Casino of the Wind, home to more than 5,000 slot machines and over 300 table games. You can also visit The Shops at Mohegan Sun, which has 36 shopping options, including Victoria’s Secret, Brookstone, Sephora, Kiehl’s, Lush, and Swarovski. We’re also only a 20 to 25 minute drive from some fantastic area attractions such as Mystic Village and the Mystic Aquarium that you can check out on your way back home.