Encore Soft Opening an Historic Event for Everett United, Long-time Supporters
The energy in the Renoir Function Room at the Encore Boston Harbor resort on Monday night was like never before.
The fate of Everett was being transformed before the eyes of everyone in the room at that moment as they enjoyed the pre-opening function for Everett United at the casino, one of the first of several “play days” organized by Encore to help the employees practice before opening.
After seven years of fighting for the Encore casino resort – and for some in the room, after a lifetime of fighting for justice for Everett – everything came to a head and the city and its residents were propelled into a five-star future.
Some attended thousands of hours of meetings to see the casino through.
Others had their long-time homes taken by a land taking, but still stood 100 percent behind the project.
Others finally had a clean waterfront to swim in, or sit by, after a lifetime of being walled off from the pollution of 100 years of heavy industry.
“We’re right now standing where there was a four-story high pile of Sulphur,” said “Cousin” Vinnie Ragucci, long-time leader of Everett United while standing in the elegant Renoir Room. “I know that because I was born 100 yards away from this building. This is breathtaking and it’s magnificent. I couldn’t be happier as an Everettite. Everything they told us they would do is the same as what they said seven years ago…We went to every meeting. The Gaming Commission knew me as Cousin Vinnie because we came to all the meetings. I am the True Grit of the city when I came to those meetings. So today I couldn’t be more delighted because Encore did what they said they would do. Who does that today? Nobody.”
Robin Brickley could hardly talk about the journey without coming to tears – and as she remembered the Robo-Calls and being a block captain – tears of joy rolled down her cheeks.
“No one understands everything we went through to get this in Everett,” she said. “To see it all happen for real tonight is so emotional for me. When I came in I just wanted to cry. That this happened is crazy. I’ve been here since the beginning of Everett United. I did the Robo-Calls and flyered the neighborhoods and was on the commercials. It’s a first rate operation and it’s in Everett. I’m very proud to say that.”
Charles DiPerri was one of the key members who spoke about swimming in the Mystic River as a boy near the casino site, and how toxic that was – and just how many people down The Line he knew that died of cancer. His dream was to see the waterfront open and thriving – and he did that Monday night. In fact, word was that a small plaque had been placed in his honor to memorialize his days of swimming in the “dirty water.”
“I can’t believe this is the same space I’ve known all my life,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Lower Broadway didn’t look like anything until six or seven years ago. It’s become like a complete wonderland now. Everett used to be called the ‘Jewel on the Hill’ and now it’s going to be the ‘Jewel on Lower Broadway.’”
Eddie and Jackie Lucas were also in attendance, and they were some of the earliest supporters – even though that support meant losing the house they called home for 39 years.
Lucas was one of the first to come on board from Lower Broadway, going to neighbors and convincing them it was the right move. Eventually, Encore bought his home and tore it down to make way for the project, but he and his wife said it was for the greater good – and they stayed in Everett.
“For us it was bittersweet because they did buy us out,” said Lucas. “We supported it from the beginning. They took our house, but now we live in the Woodlawn area and we’re so excited for this project…I had the butterflies in my stomach all day Monday knowing I was going to finally come in and see the real thing. It’s surreal to be here and hard to believe its seven years later and we’re standing here.”
Encore’s John Tocco spoke to the crowd and congratulated them on all of their hard work to bring the project to opening – whether that was protesting at Boston City Hall, going to endless Gaming Commission meetings, rallying neighbors for the 2012 vote and bearing with them through all the ups and downs in the last 18 months.
“Seven years later we are here celebrating all your hard work and dedication,” he said. “This has had its ups and downs and middle of the road times too, but you’ve showed up for everything. You’ve showed up to protest at Boston City Hall…You have all been relentless. It’s because of all of you we are here this evening…Tonight I raise a toast to our slogan and to the future, saying ‘It’s our time!’”
He added that there are more than 600 Everett employees now working at the resort, and that Encore now employs a little more than 2 percent of the Everett workforce. There are still more than 800 positions open as well, he said.
Encore President Bob DeSalvio said it was a magical moment to spend with the Everett United group on the first soft opening night.
“For us to be able to celebrate on the first preview day with Everett United is so rewarding,” he said. “They’ve been here with us every step of the way. The project wouldn’t have happened without their level of continued support. It’s something we will never forget as an organization.”
The evening concluded with charity gaming for members of Everett United on the new gaming floor, as well as dinner and other benefits at the restaurants and establishments in the resort.