By Gary Larkin
Eric Daniels’ career took a circuitous route that began at an Alaska Air Force base, included holes in apartment buildings and a large hospital, and wound up on one of the largest gaming floors in the country.
For the Detroit native, an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test he took while in high school turned into a successful career as an HVAC technician. And after 20 years working with heating and air conditioning systems and the like, Daniel was promoted to facilities director at MGM Resorts Empire City Casino in nearby Yonkers.
As a major cog in the ever-expanding casino wheel, Daniel, who now resides in Spuyten Duyvil, is responsible for the maintenance of the entire physical plant, infrastructure, operating system and grounds. He retired as facilities manager from MGM Detroit and MGM Springfield, Massachusetts.
“My responsibilities have definitely grown,” says Daniel. “As the facilities manager, I was managing and supervising the staff.” The job requires working with plumbers, electricians, HVAC engineers, carpenters and painters.
And as Empire City Casino is slated to redevelop as it awaits sportsbook gaming license approval, Daniels will add more to his list of daily tasks. The anticipated project is expected to bring more than $1 billion in economic activity to the region that includes Westchester and the Bronx, generate approximately 2,500 new jobs in the Empire City, and create an additional 10,000 indirect and regional jobs.
“There will be some construction going on,” he said. “This expands my role. There’s a lot more to oversee. There’s the casino’s construction projects and compliance.
If Empire City gets one of the three gaming permits offered by the state, Daniels expects many more construction projects.
The Empire City is already one of the largest entertainment and gaming destinations in the Northeast, with Yonkers Raceway harness racing and nearly 4,700 slot machines, electronic three-card poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and sic bo table games. MGM Detroit is a 147,000 square foot casino that includes a sports book and 30,000 square feet of dynamic event space.
“Daniel represents the level of leadership, growth and career development opportunities offered at MGM Resorts, a well-deserved promotion as we continue to grow through the ranks of our global company,” said Ed Domingo, senior vice president and general manager. Empire City Casino.
“Daniels represents MGM’s commitment to creating quality career opportunities for those it serves and also represents giving back to our veteran customers through special programs that highlight our ongoing and long-term commitment to our nation’s heroes.”
For Daniels, it was a suburb of Detroit where his father was a communications technician for AT&T and his mother was a nurse who worked nights. He knew his decision to join the Air Force would lead to a fruitful career.
“My ASVAB showed that I was strong in two areas,” said Daniels, who was a young Air Force recruit when he took the test. “It got me into civil engineering. It was a place very close to architecture.
This was his favorite area when he attended Finney High School in Detroit. “I had a drafting class in high school,” he said. I thought it was cool to design things.
Daniel learned the HVAC trade while stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage between 1998 and 2002.
“After the military, my HVAC background made me very employable,” he said. “I became an apartment repair technician.”
In fact, he worked at a large hospital where he recalls receiving troubleshooting and management training on one particular night. “We had sewage pumps,” Daniels said. “The (switch) system that served the pumps. The switch failed that night.”
“There was an electrician on call. So, I called him and we had to jump the switch. I had to skip the sewage by hand. It was one of the most memorable moments for me. “