The opening ceremonies on Sunday morning, June 23, quickly became a spotlight for the transformation of the Lower Mystic area of Charlestown, Everett and Somerville from a forgotten, polluted, industrial center to a thriving and environmentally sound area of booming economic activity.
Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox led off his comments by saying that the goals of the state expanded gaming laws had been met in Greater Boston by Encore.
“What an amazing day it is today,” he said. “Eight years ago the people of Massachusetts and the lawmakers had the foresight to understand that with the passage of gaming regulation there could be the possibility of urban renewal, economic development and for the finest integrated resorts in the world. Those were the goals and I’m here to tell you that Encore Boston Harbor has achieved those goals.”
Like others, he also emphasized the environmental transformation of the site from desolate to decadent – with a big ‘thank you’ to the trades for transforming it during construction, having many workers from Charlestown on the job.
“Seven years ago I was standing here on this site with the mayor (of Everett), just us two, and there wasn’t a blade of grass on the site,” he said. “Now there are 1,000 mature trees, 50,000 flowering plants, tens of thousands of shrubs and a living shoreline for the first time in 100 years…The building trades, the men and women who built this under the leadership of John Fish and Suffolk Construction, are the best our company has ever seen.”
Cathy Judd-Stein, chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), said the opening of Encore was the opening of prosperity to all residents of the state.
“Encore Boston Harbor’s opening not only marks the arrival of an international entertainment destination on Everett’s spectacular shoreline, but also symbolizes a new opportunity for economic growth for all the citizens of Massachusetts,” she said. “This state has one of the most stringent gaming laws in the country and its standards are high. Encore Boston Harbor has met those requirements and, indeed, in many instances exceeded those commitments…Encore has demonstrated a relentless dedication to diversity and local spending and hiring…and provided substantial mitigation funding to host and surrounding communities.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan attended the opening ceremonies on Sunday, traveling there by a Bluebike from his home abutting Rutherford Avenue. He said the opening will unlock a lot of resources for Charlestown, and now it will be important to make sure those resources are used wisely to keep ahead of any problems that could emerge.
“The Encore Resort is here,” he said. “It is now a current reality that will shape our future. Thankfully, through Mayor Walsh’s work we have a surrounding community agreement in place that gives Charlestown added revenue and resources to plan for that future. As Everett, and the region, master plan around us we must be ahead of the curve in planning for our needs and applying these added resources wisely.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria also emphasized the environmental clean up that has resulted from the casino project.
“For those of you who suffered through Monsanto and other big industries that polluted our properties and got us all very sick, I want to thank you for all you did; people like (the late) Mary Bagarella and others,” he said. “No longer when you drive through Everett will you smell gas and Sulphur and oils, but you’ll smell flowers and trees. We will no longer be the back door to the City of Boston. We will now be the front door to the City of Everett.”
And it was true for all of those who commented as such.
As they spoke on what was an extraordinary summer morning, the new trees on the Porte Cochere rustled in the wind, and songbirds flew in and out of the crowd assembled for the opening from tree to tree.
There were no songbirds on the site five years ago, quite certainly.
And beyond the Encore site, there still exist areas up and down Lower Broadway that look more like the past than the present at 1 Broadway (the Encore address).
Maddox and the Everett mayor used the opening to discuss more in-depth their plans for the corridor in what they believe will be the premier entertainment district in the northeast.
Maddox told reporters on June 21 at the Encore media day that they don’t intend to stop at the boundaries of the casino site, and they believe others will follow them.
Maddox said they own 11 acres of property across from Encore that amounts to 82 parcels they’ve purchases over the last four years. That property is now a temporary parking lot, but there are much bigger plans in store.
“We want to work with the City to create an entertainment district,” said Maddox. “It’s not all going to be our company, but we want to work side by side with local developers. Our idea is to continue to re-design this area so it’s known as ‘the’ entertainment district in the northeast. You build this anchor and others look and say, ‘Look at the opportunity.’ We’ve acquired a lot of land here – others have too. We’re really excited for the next decade in Everett.”
Gov. Charlie Baker’s staff and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s staff said they could not attend the opening due to scheduling conflicts. Baker did visit for a tour Friday morning and issued the following statement.
“Governor Baker was pleased to spend time with some of the more than 5,000 new Encore staffers and take a short tour of the facility where he wished everyone a safe and successful opening weekend,” he said.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh also did not attend due to a scheduling conflict.
The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting, featuring several employees and public officials.
After all of the speeches and discussion of future plans, there was a countdown from 10, and a surprise day-time fireworks show erupted over the Encore cove and the Mystic River.
In the background, Frank Sinatra’s ‘Nothing but the best’ played over a loudspeaker as those on the Porte Cochere erupted into loud applause.
And then the doors opened, or rather, were opened for everyone by Everett resident – and Encore doorman – Gasper Ambrose.
The casino is open 24-hours a day.