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Concord 'Rebirth' the Real Thing

Barry Lewis
Sullivan County Editor
October 13, 2000

Mannie Halbert made the short journey from his own hotel, the Raleigh, to see first-hand the rebirth of the largest resort in the Catskills.

Walking away Tuesday from the eight-story cement and brick tower with the fresh demolition gap, Halbert pointed to the top floor of the untouched tower across the yard.

"What do you see there?" he asked the visitor, knowing full well only he would have the correct answer. "That's the casino,'' Halbert said. "Ray Parker told me, 'Mannie, one day they'll have a casino up there.' "

When Louis Capelli was told of Halbert's conversation with the former owner of the Concord, he drew a smile that seemed to warm the freezing air.

"From his lips to God's ears."

It was the only trace of uncertainty in Capelli's voice – this on a day he oozed confidence as hundreds helped him celebrate his 49th birthday by watching ... not the tearing down of an old hotel, but the restoration of what is commonly known as the crown jewel of the Borscht Belt resorts.

When he first did the song and dance about his $500 million redevelopment plans, complete with artist renderings, skeptics said, "Been there. Done

They remember when another famed Sullivan County resort was being prepped for a "renovation." For the first time in 71 years, someone other than a Grossinger would be running the Grande dame of all Catskill hotels. And the new owners of the Liberty-based resort thought it a great public relations move to have Eddie Fisher make a return trip to Grossinger's to implode the old playhouse.

The running joke at the time was that the famed singer was asked to do the honors since he was responsible for bringing the house down so many times over the years.

I thought it had more to do with the fact that Fisher had bombed in his marriages to Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor.

Somehow, the name "Grossinger's" wasn't enough for the folks at Servico, Inc., a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company footing the $30 million renovation bill. It would be known as Grossinger's Hotel and Spa, a Royce Resort. What a renovation plan.

Besides the playhouse, they would tear down the main lobby and guest rooms. They would be replaced by a 12,500-square-foot ballroom, a new lobby, health spa, upgrades to the ski area and an expanded dining room. And, have 600 new jobs.

That was 15 years ago.

The folks from Servico filed for bankruptcy long ago. These days, it is Capelli who owns both Grossinger's and the Concord, and he has plans for both resorts. First, he says, the Concord. With real plans.

Mannie Halbert remembers the dreams of a new Grossinger's. But he wanted to make sure he was on hand for the reality of a new Concord. "I wanted to see the beginning of a new Sullivan County. This ... is the real thing."