The Kiel Opera House has been vacant since 1991. That’s a shame, because it means that this wonderful facility -- historic in its architecture and historic in the variety and quality of talent that performed in the Opera House from its opening in the early 1930s until its closing - has been wasted. Its former owners had little real interest in - or aptitude for - restoring/reopening Opera House.
The new owners are different. Dave Checketts, the prime mover behind Sports Capital Partners and the primary owner of the St. Louis Blues, has an affection for historic theaters-more important, he has experience in renovating and reopening them and making them successful. The restored Radio City Music Hall is a wonderful addition to the Madison Square Garden complex.
Equally important, Sports Capital Partners has performance and theater experience. The company is the majority owner of Running Subway, a New York-based production company with self-produced shows that include “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” “Sinatra,” “Peter Pan”, staging of Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution.” Running Subway also has a multiyear consulting/show investment agreement with Live Nation, the world’s largest producer of live concerts, and has close contacts with major concert promoter AEG.
As you have probably read in the newspapers, Sports Capital Partners and McEagle Development are going to try to re-open and operate the Opera House. It is not going to be easy - and it will not be realized without a starring role for the City. We will have to give up our entertainment tax on events at the Scottrade Center and provide both Scottrade and the Opera House with real estate tax abatement for up to the next 25 years.
I believe that re-opening the Opera House would not be possible without this City participation -- and I am confident that re-opening the Opera House will be worth it.
The Sports Capital plan restores this important, but now derelict, historic civic building. It adds new cultural and entertainment activity to downtown’s nightlife. It sets the stage for additional development in this “Civic Plaza” section of downtown - including the renovation and adaptive reuse of the historic Municipal Courts Building and a new parking structure with street-level retail on the “City Hall Jail Parking Lot”.
And, finally, the renovated and reopened Kiel Opera House expands Sports Capital Partners’ holdings in City of St. Louis, enhancing the likelihood that the hockey team will remain here.
The Sports Capital plan, now at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, is a deal worth making.