MGM full to brim; asks guests to consider delaying visit

WASHINGTON — MGM National Harbor might be a victim of its own success.

The brand-new resort and casino again reached its 35,000 guest capacity Friday afternoon and stopped welcoming in new guests after being forced to take similar action within an hour of its official grand opening late Thursday.

Before noon on Friday, an estimated 50,000 people had come through the resort, said MGM National Harbor spokesman Gordon Absher.

“This is an overwhelming response to our successful grand opening. This is unprecedented. We’ve never done this before. We build anticipation prior to opening and we hope that people will eagerly come down to embrace what we’ve built; we’ve never seen a response quite like this,” Absher said.

Absher urged visitors who don’t have reservations for Friday or Saturday to postpone their visit to another weekend or to plan their visit during off-peak times like for breakfast or midweek.

Those with hotel and dinner reservations this weekend were urged to arrive early and give themselves time for heavy traffic around the resort.

“We want to make sure that people have an extraordinary experience at this extraordinary resort that we have built. And that type of experience does not start with sitting in line waiting to get into the casino that you’re looking forward to playing in or waiting in line to get into a night club or even into the resort itself,” Absher said.

He said although traffic has been heavy, local police have kept traffic moving and the resort has plenty of parking. The issue is the overall capacity of the resort, but also capacity within individual elements like the casino, lounges and restaurants.

Busy resort created bridge backups

Within 45 minutes of its grand opening Thursday night, the resort had reached its maximum guest capacity. And traffic trying to reach the resort and casino quickly backed up along area roads, including on the Capital Beltway and across the Wilson Bridge, as would-be casino-goers waited to access the resort and the parking garages.

Police closed exits from the Beltway that lead toward the resort, Oxon Hill and Route 210.

The exits were closed for about 30 minutes and during that time, the traffic backups disippated, said Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski.

Once MGM was able to welcome in more visitors, the exits were reopened to give drivers access to the venue, Stawinski said.

MGM is working with the county fire department to manage crowds in the venue. And the aggregate maximum capacity is 35,000 visitors for complex, he said.

MGM guests can check the Twitter feed @NHTravelTips, which is managed by Stawinski’s department, to learn whether the resort is welcoming in guests or if it has reached capacity. He said casino-goers might be able to find a spot in a parking garage only to have to wait several hours before they could be let into the complex.

“The challenge with a large venue was the start time,” Stawinski said of Friday night’s backups.

He doesn’t expect similar backups Friday or Saturday because there will be no set start time for visitors to meet.

Because this weekend is also historically a busy time for holiday shopping at the nearby Tanger Outlets, his department is also actively managing traffic in and around the mall as well as Oxon Hill Road, Stawinski said.

For those looking for alternative options, the Capital Waterfront area of National Harbor is open for business along with the Capital Wheel, which is heated. Executive Director Bruce Gudenberg said the district, home to shops and restaurants, has plenty of parking.

Visit the WTOP traffic page for the latest updates on MGM traffic, follow us on Twitter @WTOPtraffic, and listen to live traffic reports every 10 minutes on 103.5 FM or via our online stream.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report from National Harbor.

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