SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — MGM has broken ground on an $800 million casino in western Massachusetts that represents the largest economic development project the region has seen in generations.

Hundreds attended the ceremony Tuesday held on a cold but sunny day in front of an old school the casino plans to raze to make way for a parking lot.

Company officials including CEO Jim Murren, President Bill Hornbuckle and MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis attended the event along with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and state Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby.

The groundbreaking is largely symbolic.

But the event marks a significant development in New England’s ever-escalating casino race.

MGM is trying to become Massachusetts’ first resort casino. The company says it expects to open the casino by 2017, after about 30 months of building.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.