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Everett casino plans changing under Steve Wynn’s watchful eye

The plans for an Everett casino called for a curving bronze tower reminiscent of Steve Wynn’s hotels on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. REUTERS/Wynn Resorts/Handout/REUTERS

LAS VEGAS — Steve Wynn was in his element, in the home office where he designed his Everett casino, surrounded by a peculiar mix of artistic rarities — a Matisse, a Picasso, a portrait of Wynn’s dogs by emerging Texas watercolorist George W. Bush — and talking about how much Vegas he can pack onto the banks of the Mystic River.

Revealing details of his Everett resort plans for the first time, the casino magnate confirmed he has scrapped the unloved hotel high rise from the original design, replacing it with a gently curving bronze tower reminiscent of his Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas.

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“They want the excitement of Las Vegas?” he said in an interview with the Globe. “We can give that.”

He wants to build more hotel rooms in Everett, growing plans to about 630 rooms from 500.

He said he is having a blast producing a new live music show at his flagship casino — and now thinks his Boston-area gambling palace may need a showroom.

“Boston,” he insisted, “is more of a theater town than Las Vegas.”

This sort of tinkering has driven the projected cost of the Everett resort to $1.75 billion, he said, up from $1.6 billion in September when Wynn’s riverfront project won the Greater Boston casino license over a competing plan by Mohegan Sun in Revere.

“If you do it right you can spend a billion-seven-five, which is as much as Bellagio cost,” said Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, speaking of the extravagant Vegas casino he opened in 1998. “You can spend that in Boston — sophisticated, wealthy town with people who know the difference.”

The 72-year-old billionaire was in top spirits earlier this month during an interview at the villa he shares with his wife, Andrea, at the Wynn and Encore resort casino on the Vegas Strip. He was dressed for the gym, in dark sweat pants and a white T-shirt that purported to quote Socrates (“To do is to be”), Plato (“To be is to do”) and Sinatra (“Do be do be do.”)

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Steve WynnJOHN LOCHER/AP/FILE 2014

On a nearby table, among a clutter of Christmas cards, is a vaguely familiar statuette of a bird. It is in fact the Maltese Falcon — a prop from the 1941 Humphrey Bogart film that, according to published reports, sold for $4 million last year to an unidentified buyer. “It has a dent where Bogie dropped it,” Wynn said, clearing up the mystery of who owns the bird.

His eclectic taste in art will be on display in Greater Boston: a playful, 2,000-pound sculpture of Popeye — which Wynn paid $28 million for last spring — by artist Jeff Koons will be a lobby showpiece.

“Popeye is coming to Everett,” he revealed.

A lot has to happen before the statue arrives and the first hand of blackjack is dealt. Wynn Resorts plans to close on the proposed casino site “just after” Jan. 1 and to begin construction as soon as June, according to the company. The troubled former industrial site is polluted and will need extensive cleanup, which a Wynn official said will start after the ground thaws in February or March.

Company officials have said they hope to open the resort in late 2017.

Three men linked to the ownership group selling the property to Wynn were indicted in October for allegedly lying to state investigators in an attempt to hide that a convicted felon had a stake in the land. Two neighboring communities trying to block the casino project, Somerville and Revere, have cited the indictments in lawsuits filed against the state Gaming Commission.

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Wynn would not release any new diagrams or renderings of the resort; he will save them for a presentation before the gambling commission, perhaps in January. He allowed the Globe to view his plans, which have become much more specific since he won the license.

Wynn’s fanatical attention to detail is well known in the casino business. His imprint is on every part of what he calls the “guest experience.” Wynn said he and his architect, DeRuyter Butler, spent an enormous amount of time together, thinking about the hotel lobby.

“We would say, ‘OK, the arrival experience has to be a wow moment,’ ” Wynn explained. “ ‘In order to savor it, we’re going to have to put stuff in it — it’s not going to just be a lobby you pass through, like Bellagio.’ That was an important sentence to me. I’m talking out loud to myself; he’s sitting next to me. And we start with the felt tip pens.”

Visitors passing through the hotel’s front doors will enter a tall space with 30-foot ceilings and immediately meet two indoor gardens, each about 2,200 square feet, where the casino’s staff will build 25-foot flower sculptures.

“A working carousel, working Ferris wheel — all in flowers,” he said. “Or it will be a hot air balloon or a Faberge egg. They’ll be changing all the time.”

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Stores and restaurants will branch off the lobby. Wynn is importing several fine dining concepts from his Las Vegas resort, such as the upscale SW Steakhouse; Andrea’s, an Asian fusion restaurant named for Wynn’s wife; and “a very serious buffet.”

Above the registration desks to either side of the lobby, Wynn plans to build a midlevel floor, 16 feet above the lobby floor, with a coffee shop on one side, a bar on the other, and glass railings to not interrupt the views.

This $28 million Popeye statue by Jeff Koons will be a lobby staple in Everett, Wynn said.Wynn Las Vegas/Associated Press/Associated Press

“The lounge and the coffee shop look into the gardens,” he said. “And because they’re only 16 feet up, they’re really in the space. It’s not a second floor, it’s a mezzanine. And that technique of involving people in the space, I’m going to exploit in the entire hotel.”

Once he decided to add the mezzanine level, Wynn said, he had to imagine the rest of the lobby from the point of view of people in the lounge and coffee shop.

He decided the front of the hotel should be a wall of glass, 26 feet high and 130 feet long, looking out to the Mystic River, the casino’s boat dock, and the Boston skyline. The tricky part, he said, was designing an unusually tall porte-cochère, the covered structure over the front door.

“It wasn’t easy to resolve this,” Wynn said. “I don’t want you looking at the back of a porte-cochère structure while you’re sitting in the mezzanine having breakfast.”

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The lobby plan will be turned into a scale model, which will allow Wynn to check the sightlines from every point in the lobby using a periscope that mimics the point-of-view of a six-foot person.

“I’ve got to prove to myself I’ve got this right,” he said.

One of Wynn’s design goals for Everett was that “the gambling cannot be the dominant factor,” he said. “Everybody is going to know there is a casino there. It can be a ring-ding big one, but it’s got to be separate from the noncasino moment. That means you can take the children there on Sunday.”

The gambling floor will have one entrance from the hotel, he said, and it will be possible to visit restaurants, nightclubs, shops, convention rooms and other amenities without encountering a slot machine.

Above the gambling floor, Wynn is planning a mezzanine level that will encircle the casino’s thousands of slots and 150 table games, as well as provide access to food and lounges. Poker tables will be on a raised platform at mezzanine height in the middle of the gambling floor, serviced by an escalator.

“You get a picture of this joint?” he said. “Brand new idea for Boston, a lot of vertical excitement.”

The hotel will have about 150 suites, he said. The standard rooms will be modeled after the rooms at Wynn Las Vegas. The underground parking garage will be beneath the casino floor so gamblers can park and ride an elevator directly to the type of game they want, he said.

The standard hotel room Wynn intends to build in Everett.Barbara Kraft/Wynn

In addition to fine-tuning his Everett plans, Wynn has been busy this fall creating a new live show at his Vegas resort, called “Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers.”

Wynn is the show’s executive producer; it was his idea to hire a full orchestra and three-dozen singers and dancers to perform his favorite songs from famous Broadway musicals, such as “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”

Wynn saw the show every day for weeks during its preview period, often ordering changes that would be rehearsed by the cast and incorporated into the next day’s production. He drummed up preview audiences by inviting thousands of Vegas cab drivers, hotel concierges, and bell captains — so each would have a show to suggest when out-of-towners want a recommendation.

At one of the final previews before the show’s Dec. 20 opening, Wynn’s hands chopped the air with the big notes and he was the first to rise in applause when the last number ended.

Before the audience had time to file out, Wynn was asking: “Do you think this would work in Boston?”


Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark