They came. They saw. They scarfed hot dogs and burgers.
At an evening picnic in Campbell Square sponsored by Wynn Resorts last week, more than 500 neighbors gathered in the park at the heart of Port Richmond to enjoy live music and free food.
“This picnic is unique to Port Richmond,” said Michael Weaver, Wynn Resorts’ senior vice president of marketing strategy. “We wanted to have an opportunity to thank the community for their support, which has been tremendous.”
Numerous visitors said the picnic party, held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17, was the most crowded event they had ever seen at Campbell Square.
But while the “picnic in the park” event was sponsored by Wynn Resorts, one of six companies currently in the running for a lone Philadelphia casino license, Wynn representatives said the picnic was separate from that process.
“The Gaming Control Board is going to make a straight-up decision,” Weaver said, referring to the state board that will award the casino license in late 2013. “This is more of a thank you than an expectation that they would do something for us,” Weaver said of the picnic.
Referring to community support, Weaver cited the Fishtown Neighbors Association Zoning Committee meeting in April, where 173 neighbors voted in favor of the Wynn casino and hotel proposal, and 55 voted against it.
Weaver also said that neighbors’ feedback has impacted the designs for Wynn Philadelphia, and led to the decision to include a 4.5 acre public river walk in the project’s design.
If built, the Wynn project would occupy 60 acres along Richmond Street from Schirra Drive to Columbia Avenue, with 18 acres devoted to green park space, according to Wynn Resorts.
The “thank you” to the community also included the promise of sizable donations to three local groups. During the Picnic in the Park event, Wynn Resorts presented a $3,000 check to the Portside Arts Center, and said that they would also donate $1,000 to Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC), and $1,000 to the Friends of Campbell Square.
“We’re really tickled for Wynn to recognize us as an asset in the community,” said Portside Art Center director Kim Creighton. She said the donation would go towards the center’s arts camp, scholarship fund and general operational costs.
PROPAC president Ken Paul declined to comment on their contribution. Friends of Campbell Square events coordinator Jen Bytof said they had not received their donation as of press-time and could not yet comment on how it would be used.
Festivities included the Polish American String Band’s hour-long performance, followed by local band The Exceptions, who took over to play funk and soul favorites for the rest of the evening.
Asked about the Wynn Philadelphia proposal, neighbors’ reactions varied from strong support to skepticism.
“I’m in favor of the casino coming here and the economic boom it’ll give to the economy. We need more things like this in the area,” said Jim Myers, a retired sheet metal worker who resides on Clearfield Street in Port Richmond.
Other locals were more cautious about supporting the casino, or were just at the picnic for a good time.
“I can’t see them putting that there, not when you’ve got that other one [Sugar House Casino] right there,” said Jim McMahon, 78, a retired glass factory worker and Port Richmond native, referring to Wynn Philadelphia’s proposed location. “It should be down on Washington Avenue.”
Enjoying the live music at the picnic with her grandmother was Port Richmond woman Kim Scollom.
Scollom said that in general, she thinks development is good for the neighborhood.
“I’m all for building up down there on the river. I don’t see any point in drama about it. I don’t see anybody else building there,” she said. ull;•