The proposed East of Broadway project encountered staunch resistance during the recent public hearing held by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
According to the current plans, the development would be located across the street from Encore Boston Harbor. It would feature a pedestrian footbridge, a 999-seat events center, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage for 2,900 vehicles, as well as the possibility of three hotels and seven restaurants.
During the February 28 hearing, Troy Siebels, president of the Massachusetts Performing Arts Coalition, said his organization helped craft the state’s Gaming Statute. The coalition also signed an Impacted Live Entertainment Venue Agreement with Encore’s parent company, Wynn Resorts. However, he said it appears that neither document was taken into consideration when the plans for East of Broadway were created. “Our frustration is that those things don’t seem to be worth the paper they’re printed on,” he said during the February 28 hearing.
In addition, Siebels raised concerns that the events center could hurt the theaters that belong to the coalition.“There’s the potential for them to bring in the acts that normally play in 2,500-seat theaters because their business model is different from ours,” he said. “It’s not a silver bullet, restricting the venue size.”
On February 10, Attorney Samuel M. Tony Starr; counsel for Wynn MA, LLC, assured the commission that East of Broadway would not be “part of the gaming establishment.”
However, State Representative Paul Donato disagreed, saying the footbridge would be connected to Encore. “It’s very evident that this is, without a doubt, part of the casino,” said Donato.
Attorney Daniel Rabinovitz, counsel for the City of Medford, said Encore has repeatedly broken the law as it pertains to indoor seating capacity. “Encore has continually had concerts where seats have been sold and seats have been put in their ballroom that are between 1,000 and 3,500 seats,” he said. “That’s a straight violation of the law.”
Therefore, Rabinovitz said, Encore should be fined or at the very least, the commission should send the casino a “very stern written warning.” “Encore is not interested at all in complying with this restriction about the number of seats that they can have,” he said. “If we find out that they’re going to have those kinds of events again, one of the things that my clients are going to consider is to file something in Superior Court for Injunctive Relief.”
Kenneth Krause, a member of the Board Directors of the Friends of Chevalier Auditorium and Gene Mack Gym, accused Encore of “predatory practices.” Citing one example, he said the New Wave band The B-52s was slated to perform at the Chevalier until Encore swooped in with a better deal. “They have an unfair advantage because they can offer these acts much more than the conventional theaters can,” said Krause. “They can pay much higher because they’re not reliant on income from the event itself.”
In addition, Krause said the Commission is the only entity that can enforce the seating capacity at the proposed events center. “If the venue goes ahead and it’s not part of the Gaming Commission, they could turn around the next day and make it 1,800 seats,” he said.