September Conventions, Shaq Highlight Entertainment Business at Encore

When you think of night life on the Mystic River by Encore Boston Harbor post-June 23, think of a 7-foot-tall retired NBA star who can spin tunes as skillfully as he formerly shattered backboards.

Following a successful opening June 23 to the region’s first resort casino on the Everett/Boston border in what was once a polluted brownfield, now the resort is settling into a gaming, restaurant and entertainment venue like no other in Boston.

On Thursday, June 27, NBA Hall-of-Famer (and one-time Boston Celtic) Shaquille O’Neal will headline the Memoire nightclub at Encore Boston Harbor, bringing his ultra-popular DJ Diesel act to the casino.

O’Neal has had an existing relationship with the Wynn team in Las Vegas, appearing there at their properties numerous times. Forbes magazine called him the most successful DJ on the planet since launching his newest career in 2017. Now, that DJ relationship is likely going to trickle into Boston on a somewhat-frequent basis as he joins the new acts coming here.

“We have a private event next weekend where we have invited guests coming in for dinner and a concert with Earth, Wind & Fire,” said Encore President Bob DeSalvio, highlighting the entertainment options that are to come to the resort. “We have the week after that Paul Anka doing a private concert for our VIP guests as well. We’re going to have our first sporting event July 12 working with Ken Casey and Murphy’s Boxing for a championship boxing event right in our Picasso Ballroom. We’re going to continue to look at other opportunities using our current 37,000 square-foot ballroom facility.”

Such stars and small shows are going to be relatively common at the Encore as time goes on, officials said.

At the same time, Encore will not be hosting large-capacity Las Vegas-style shows at in-house theatres.

In fact, they are not allowed such a thing.

The state’s gaming law was very specific in spelling out just how many guests could be at an on-site show or event, hoping not to cannibalize the existing theatre and event spaces already in Boston. With that, Encore had created codified relationships with venues like the Wang Theatre and the TD Garden. Those two venues and others will play large in concert with the Big Night Entertainment sponsored Memoire Nightclub on the property.

DeSalvio said, “However, there is a second piece to this because Boston has wonderful tourism assets right at our fingertips. We already have arrangements with the Red Sox for a wonderful suite at Fenway. They also have a wonderful concert series. We have a suite box at the TD Garden and besides the sporting events, they have some of the best concert lineups in the country. We have a suite at Gillette Stadium. They also have a concert series there. We have arrangements with the Wang Theatre and so there are great assets here. One thing we really like about being in eastern Massachusetts is there are so many other wonderful things for our guests to do. We want our guests to go out and explore the region…We think that will be the key to them making more trips in the future.”

•A key business that has emerged – and in some cases has nothing to do with the casino – is group bookings for conventions at the Encore.

With the 37,000 square-feet Picasso Ballroom and a total of 50,000 square-feet of convention and meeting space, there has been strong interest from groups looking to come to Boston for conventions.

Encore’s Joan Esneault said they are finding international companies with offices in Boston or the United States having great interest in Encore.

“We are seeing international companies that have offices in the United States inquire with us,” she said. “We’re really booked up for the fall and winter. We have lots of groups looking to book many rooms. It’s a very unique space for Boston. We can tell you we have a mid-size convention with 200 rooms for mid-August, and in September around Labor Day we have a company that has booked 600 rooms for three nights and 1,000 people. Each week in September is totally full. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and that’s a very desirable space for a convention.”

She said while the resort is popular for the gaming, one thing that booking agents have also noted is that it’s a gaming resort where the gaming isn’t in your face.

“You don’t have to go through a casino to get to the ballroom,” she said. “Some groups are sensitive to the casino aspect and like that quality in this resort.”

And of course, they also like the huge ballroom.

“It is larger than any hotel ballroom in all of the City of Boston,” she said.

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