The renovation and reopening of the Kiel Opera House is very important to the future of downtown. This prominent landmark has been vacant since 1991, and its deteriorated condition casts a pall on the character of our “civic district”.
Even more important, a vacant Opera House is a continuing lost opportunity to attract new activity to the region. A re-opened Opera House will bring new visitors to downtown, and a new venture involving Sports Capital Partners will solidify and expand SCP’s commitment to St. Louis.
We are fortunate that SCP’s partners have experience in renovating and operating historic theaters (e.g., Radio City Music Hall) and that SCP has extensive experience in attracting and booking entertainment like concerts, comedy shows and Broadway shows and in producing its own shows. These abilities are important to the success of the Opera House and critical to the City’s and the region’s ability to expand the menu of entertainment that we offer.
As to the impact of the Opera House’s reopening on the Fox Theater, Rich Baker, the President of Fox Associates, said in 2004 when the Opera House reopening was being contemplated: "Some (productions) play better to a bigger house, some to a smaller house. ... So we would have even more Broadway (shows) than we’ve had in the past." Good point, Mr. Baker.
I agree that Grand Center and its commercial centerpiece, the Fox Theater, are very important to the City’s image and to our economic future. I support Grand Center and the Fox and so should you.
It is worth noting —- since not every account of the circumstances surrounding the Fox’s operation has reported it that the City has been its expressing its support for both the Fox and its neighborhood in a number of ways for a quarter of a century: the City assisted the Fox with funding for its reopening in the early 1980s; that City ordinance excuses the Fox from paying an amusement tax on its tickets; and that the City has assisted Grand Center with an $80 million tax increment financing, and, most recently, with strong support for $2 million in Economic Recovery Act public improvements, most of which will probably be constructed in the immediate vicinity of the Fox.
But, I also believe that the renovation and reopening of the Opera House is also very important to the City’s image and to the City’s economic future. That is why I have urged the full Board of Aldermen to follow the recommendation of its committee and its president, and approve the Kiel Opera House ordinances now before it.