POLAND — The Poland Spring Resort is stepping into year-round operation, and owner Cyndi Robbins said the casino referendum's passage was a big influence.
Robbins said 12 of the resort's approximately 150 seasonal jobs will become year-round to support the guests at the Motor Court Inn, a 33-room building on the resort. Robbins said it will be winterized and renamed The Lodge.
“If that works, then we'll go on to another one,” Robbins said.
She said planned renovation to the inn will include an arcade, a gift shop and a breakfast nook. According to a press release, the renovation will cost more than $100,000.
Robbins said the Motor Court Inn was chosen first, not only because it's the smallest and easiest to renovate, but because it's right on Route 26 where drivers can see it. The 66-room Presidential Inn and the 85-room main inn will be next, if The Lodge does well next winter.
Robbins said the renovations will be completed over the next few months. “We'll be opening in May, on schedule,” she said. “The difference is that we won't be closing.”
The resort has traditionally been open from May until October, with the golf course there as its main draw.
There is already cross country skiing and snowmobiling on the resort grounds, as well as an ice skating rink next to Cyndi's Dockside Restaurant.
Black Bear Entertainment states on its website that it plans to build and open the casino late this year.
Robbins called the planned casino “a huge boon to this area.” According to a press release from the resort, in the past few years the resort has experienced about 75 percent occupancy rates, down from 100 percent before then.
According to the press release, the decision to expand wasn't solely due to the referendum's passage in November. It “is also tied to an increased recognition that Maine’s western mountains are an attractive vacation destination,” the release said.
Black Bear Community Development Director Scott Smith said the renovation is only the beginning of the casino's economic impact.
The promise of the casino “starts to get people to get more courageous and more confident,” he said Monday.
Smith said Robbins' move was encouraging. “I think it's a validation of our project.”
In August, an associate professor of economics released a study on expected job creation from a casino. He estimated that aside from the casino jobs, another 896 jobs could be created in meals and lodging for casino clientele.
Poland Spring Resort's three inns and 10 cottages accommodate 425 guests, according to the press release.