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Wynn shows his hand to Foxborough

Hopes casino’s lodge look will wow, win over voters

By Mark Arsenault
Globe Staff / March 3, 2012
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Casino mogul Steve Wynn promised to design a gambling resort nestled into the landscape of Foxborough, in keeping with the character of rural New England.

The stone and timber palace he unveiled yesterday seemed transported from a ski mountain in the tony Idaho resort where Wynn built a home, except that it would be super-sized to eye-popping scale.

Three months after news of Wynn’s Foxborough casino plan first leaked, the Las Vegas developer has released the first renderings of his proposal, seeking to build community support for a project that has stirred strident opposition.

“Foxborough isn’t a place for neon and glitz,’’ Wynn said in an interview Thursday at his home and office at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, on the Vegas Strip. “It’s a rural residential community, so this [design] is more of a lodge. It’s wood and stone, low-key. But inside it has the kind of fun and grace that folks haven’t seen before. And therefore it’s a hell of a place to go for dinner. It’s a hell of a place to have a meeting.’’

Wynn sent glossy mailings, including artist drawings of the proposal and a 20-minute DVD, to about 7,000 households in Foxborough, hoping to wow voters into taking a new look at his proposal for a $1 billion gambling resort, hotel, and convention center across Route 1 from Gillette Stadium.

Skeptics had questioned how the creator of the exploding volcano at The Mirage hotel in Las Vegas would design a gambling resort that fit the rural character of New England.

For the Foxborough resort, Wynn took his inspiration from a luxury house he built in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“It’s the kind of place I chose to live in,’’ said Wynn. The lodges of Sun Valley “are done with logs and river rock, and they have a warmth and a charm that’s very resortlike, but country.’’

His plans include a 5,000-car parking garage, retail stores, and a spa, in addition to a gambling room with slot machines and table games. He would also build a pedestrian bridge connecting the project with Patriot Place.

Wynn has added a sweetener to entice local voters: a public skating rink, usable year-round.

He estimates that the town would get between $10 million and $15 million a year in tax revenue from the project, which the developer is calling Wynn Foxborough.

Wynn’s DVD includes renderings of the exterior of the hotel, and of the interior of the shopping promenade, a restaurant and the gambling room, as well as short testimonials from Foxborough residents who support the project. The DVD seems relatively homespun for a multibillion-dollar company. It pictures Wynn, dressed casually, sitting in a restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas that overlooks the resort’s golf course, describing his vision for the resort casino as the renderings appear on the screen.

He will let the renderings and the new project details sink in with Foxborough voters and then send some high-level staff members to town to meet with residents, he said.

“We’re going to let people feel us and see what we’re like and let nature take its course,’’ he said. “I don’t think you can swarm this. I don’t think you can buy it. You just put your cards on the table. It’s New England; people don’t like to be rushed.’’

Opposition to Wynn’s plans has been loud since the developer confirmed in December that he is eyeing land owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for a casino. Public hearings on the issue have drawn large, rowdy crowds. Foxborough selectmen voted 3 to 2 in late December to oppose the project, though they have the power to reconsider at any time.

Casino opponents criticized Wynn’s sales pitch yesterday as pretty propaganda that hides the downside of casino gambling.

“We fully expected there to be some really beautiful renderings of the facility,’’ said Stephanie Crimmins, a spokeswoman for the anticasino group, No Foxboro Casino. “Does it change my mind? Absolutely, positively not.

“Casinos end up destroying the fabric of the community,’’ she said, predicting that a casino would increase crime. “You can’t put a price on what happens to the community when those elements suddenly appear.’’

Wynn denies that casinos foster crime, though he conceded that the industry’s reputation has been hurt by careless operators.

“The face of gambling in America is homely,’’ said Wynn.

Racetrack slot parlors “are homely,’’ he said. “If I’m in Foxborough and someone says, ‘I want to bring that to town,’ I say, ‘Whoa.’ My problem is separating myself from the industry.’’

Wynn has developed some of the most famous properties on the Las Vegas strip, such as Bellagio and the Wynn and Encore hotels.

Foxborough resident Dale Paccione, 68, who left the Post Office yesterday afternoon with the Wynn mailing, said the exterior rendering did not seem like an appropriate fit.

“I think it’s a little much for Foxborough,’’ he said. “This looks like Colorado, not New England.’’

But another resident, Maureen Dowd, 59, said the exterior bore a slight resemblance to an apartment complex in town.

“I’m iffy about it, if I want it or I don’t,’’ Dowd said of the proposal. “I don’t know all the details.’’

Wynn said he was drawn to Foxborough because it is near the midpoint between Boston and Providence. He likes the rural feel of the Route 1 site, now a vast gravel parking lot.

“Foxborough doesn’t have urban squalor, which doesn’t interest me,’’ he said. “I need a suburban environment so I can do my indoor-outdoor thing,’’ incorporating large windows and outdoor patio restaurants.

Wynn and Kraft have said consistently that if the community does not want a casino, they will drop the plan. Wynn made the point again Thursday. “I don’t want to be a salesman for this idea,’’ he said. “I want to be an engineer of it.’’

But he insisted he has the right to present his case. Wynn will eventually poll the voters and compare the results to earlier polls.

“If we poll and the public is swinging our way, I think that’s important for the selectmen to know,’’ he said. “If there is movement, the selectmen will feel it.’’

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com.

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