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Kiel Opera House rehab gets initial approval

The Kiel Opera House at 14th and Market has sat vacant since 1991
(Rachel Lippmann/KWMU)
The Kiel Opera House at 14th and Market has sat vacant since 1991

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis aldermen have given their initial approval to legislation providing financing to rehabilitate and reopen the Kiel Opera House. The building closed in 1991, and has sat vacant since. Past reopening attempts have failed.

Sports Capital Partners Worldwide will finance part of the $70 million project with bonds, which will be paid off using amusement tax revenue on the sales of St. Louis Blues tickets that would ordinarily go to the city. SCP also owns the Blues and the neighboring Scottrade Center. The company is putting up $15 million of its own money.

The project does not have the support of the Fox Theatre, which would compete directly with the Opera House for productions, though the Opera House would be limited in the number of touring shows it can host for the first five years.

Alderwoman Marlene Davis's 19th Ward includes the Fox Theatre - she was the only lawmaker to vote no during the Wednesday committee vote.

"The Kiel will grow in its notoriety, it will become the new kid on the block, the new exciting toy for everybody to go to, and it's going to take away from the ticket sales at the Fox," she said. "The project itself needs to happen, but not the way that it did."

SCP executive Ken Munoz disagreed. The Cardinals and Rams do not see themselves as competitors with the Blues for ticket sales, he said, and he expects the same thing to happen between the Kiel and the Fox.

"You have three or four first-class restaurants in the same block, they thrive off of each other, and that's what's going to happen here," he said.

SCP must still secure state and federal tax credits and sell the bonds before the project can begin. Mu oz said construction needs to start in August to open the Opera House with a production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in November 2010.