Concert venue

Could a concert hall across from the Encore Casino be detrimental to theaters in the Boston area?

State law prohibits the construction of entertainment venues ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,500 seats in casinos. But Wynn plans to build the venue across from the Encore property and hire a separate company, most likely Big Night Entertainment Group, to operate it. And Wynn says the site will operate without a subsidy from the casino.

Mid-sized theater companies are still worried about facing unfair competition, especially after Wynn put on shows in the casino ballroom before the pandemic began.

“We thought we fixed this problem early in the law’s passage,” said Troy Siebels, president of the 2300-seat Hanover Theater in Worcester. “It might not technically be in the casino law, but it still seems pretty clear that it is not in the spirit of the law. It seems like a way to get around the rules.

Siebels said he plans to write a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission by January, expressing his concerns. Many large cities in the state – such as Lynn, Lowell and New Bedford – have landmark theaters similar to his that could be affected, Siebels said.

Bill Blumenreich, a promoter who runs the 1,100-seat Wilbur in Boston and the 1,875-seat Knight in Medford, said he was consulting a lawyer on the next steps. He attended a planning committee meeting in Everett earlier this month to raise his objections with city officials.

“I don’t think it will stand up in court,” Blumenreich said. “The City of Medford and I are considering hiring a lawyer who will protect our rights and make sure Encore follows the law.”

Executives at Wynn and Big Night – who are in final talks on operating the new venue – say theater operators are overreacting. Michael Weaver, spokesperson for Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, said the Everett event center would be leased to Big Night, who would run it as a for-profit operation financially independent from the casino.

“We expect Big Night to operate the site on the basis of the same financial metrics it uses to operate all of its local sites,” Weaver said in a statement, “and will make scheduling decisions based on what ‘he believes he is both popular and profitable for himself.

Encore Boston Harbor Casino.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

In a separate statement, Big Night’s partner Ed Kane emphasized the proposed venue’s independence from Wynn.

“The Everett community has been deprived of an independent event space for decades,” Kane said. “This is an opportunity for Everett to take advantage of a first-class, multi-purpose, independently managed facility. “

The prospect of new competition comes at a difficult time for the live events industry, as venues attempt to recover from a one-year-plus shutdown due to COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases are on the increase and shows are starting to be postponed again. And local operators have received relatively little help under the $ 4 billion stimulus package recently approved by state lawmakers. In particular, the theater industry sought to create a pilot program of new tax credits for big budget theatrical productions, but was unsuccessful.

“There are several … historic sites that already exist in a very competitive market,” said Erica Lynn Schwartz, vice president of the Ambassador Theater Group, which operates the Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston. “Especially as the pandemic is exiting, it is very difficult to understand how another site is needed when the already established sites that mean so much to their communities must thrive. “

Boch Center general manager Joe Spaulding said he was also somewhat worried and already had a business relationship with Wynn – the casino company is a major sponsor of the Boch Center and helps to fund some of the centre’s community work. Spaulding said he had previously raised his concerns with Wynn’s management. He also has reason to hope that the new facility won’t harm the Boch Center, which operates the Wang and Shubert theaters in Boston: From what he can tell, Everett’s venue layout will be more appropriate. at trade shows than at concerts.

“I hope to work with Ed on some shows,” Spaulding said, “so rather than hurting each other, we help each other.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jonchesto.