Amid drama, Encore prepares for June opening
Most of the 3,100 slot machines, 143 table games, and 88 poker tables with white leather rails are ready for play.
The 671 hotel rooms are all but done, luxury beds in place, 507-thread-count linens stocked on the gleaming Everett tower’s 27 floors.
In one of the biggest hiring sprees in local memory, 5,500 people have been extended job offers, with about a third already getting paychecks.
As uncertainty has swirled around the Encore Boston Harbor — would MGM Resorts buy the property? — preparations for the $2.6 billion casino’s June 23 opening are in a final sprint, an unfathomably massive logistical operation hurtling toward the finish line.
The sweep of the effort is unique in Massachusetts history: readying a five-star hotel, a massive casino, 15 restaurants and lounges, a conference space, a spa, and more — all to open in one fell swoop.
“Let’s say you built a home or a condo, and you have that turnover. You’re going to closing,” Encore president Robert DeSalvio said by way of comparison in a lengthy interview this week in his temporary Medford office. “So you think about that — and then think about that in 3.1 million square feet!”
A 42-year veteran in the hospitality industry, DeSalvio offered a laugh that seemed mixed with a gulp. His hand rested on a super-sized chart, a sheaf of extra-large pages outlining how and when Encore has moved and is moving furniture, fixtures, and equipment into the building. It’s a testament to the daunting scope of the work.
Unspoken by him, but burbling in the background: Wynn Resorts’ conversations with MGM Resorts about selling the Encore, first acknowledged by the companies last week.
After sharp blowback from incredulous local and state officials, MGM said Tuesday that it was cutting off such discussions. Had the deal moved forward, the massive gaming company would have had to relinquish the casino license it holds in Western Massachusetts and presumably sell MGM Springfield, the state’s first resort casino, which opened less than a year ago.
But the churning uncertainty hasn’t stopped the Wynn organization from moving forward on everything from casino chips to chrysanthemums, from massage tables to shuttles from the T, from mundane lighting to the red Murano crystal chandeliers that will hang above the main gaming floor.
That high-end feel will be omnipresent at Encore Boston Harbor: Yes, even the Dunkin’ coffee shop will have marble floors.
Ninety-eight percent of the work on the physical space is done, DeSalvio said, and a horticultural hustle has also been underway, with almost all of the 900 trees and 100,000 plants, shrubs, and flowers ensconced in the ground. The high-end greenery creates what he described as a bucolic, golf-course-like entryway from Route 99 onto the property.
An extensive transportation plan is in place. Free shuttle buses will zip customers to the casino from the Malden Center and Wellington stops on the Orange Line.
For $7, guests can take a quick water shuttle from the Seaport to Long Wharf to the Encore — just 20 minutes from downtown to the casino dock, he said.
And for everyone coming from points north, south, and west, Wynn Resorts has crafted what DeSalvio describes as a premium park-and-ride, meant to encourage people to leave their cars at lots in Londonderry, N.H., Rockland, and Millbury and ride in on a $7 luxury bus right to the casino.
Still, there are thousands of parking spaces in Everett for those who end up driving.
As DeSalvio makes his way through a massive to-do list, it’s the hiring process that has kept him up at night.
“We’re down to 2.9 percent unemployment in Massachusetts last month. It is the lowest it’s been in 50 years. And so it is really a challenge,” DeSalvio said.
Still, he’s on track to have all 5,800 employees hired within the next four weeks.
Most employees will begin training June 3, a week from Monday, with a curriculum that ranges from fire safety to technical training for their specific jobs.
For 650 culinary workers, training begins early — next week — so there’s time to break in all the kitchen equipment, which will be enough to feed thousands of people a day.
Soon, the gargantuan operation will begin to kick into gear, testing itself all the while.
For three days, beginning June 10, the resort will become a massive improv stage, with some employees playing the role of customers.
The resort will invite friends and family for a soft launch of restaurants on June 13 and 14: real food, but no cash on the gaming tables or in the slots.
Then, on June 17, the casino will open for an eight-hour shift with money on the gaming floor, food in the restaurants, and advance customers — people who expressed early interest in the casino.
All the while, officials from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be watching and taking notes, DeSalvio said.
After the shift, staff and management will review their performance and integrate feedback from the Gaming Commission, DeSalvio said.
Encore, which is overseen by thousands of security cameras, will run two more test days, June 19 and 20, before going dark for one final stretch.
Nearly five years after winning the coveted gaming license for the Boston area, Wynn Resorts will have one last chance to polish everything for Encore’s grand opening.
“What we really like about that is that you can go live for eight hours, and then you can stop,” DeSalvio said. “Because literally, once we open the door to the public, the place will be open 24/7/365 — forever.”