This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 4, 2011 - If you're planning to go to the reopened Peabody Opera House, two parking improvements are in the works that should make things easier.
William Kuehling, a spokesman for the St. Louis treasurer's office, says one is a new elevator that will be built along the north side of an existing 1,200-or-so-space garage opening onto Clark Avenue.
"Now people using the garage have to walk around the entire Scottrade Center building to get to the Opera House," he said. "The solution is the elevator so you can come out on 15th Street and walk a much shorter distance to the Opera House."
The other improvement is a new entrance/exit for about 130 spaces in the city-owned Abrams building, just west of the Opera House, that likely will be set aside for certain VIP ticket holders. That improvement also will allow direct access to 15th Street, and no one will have to walk through the building to get to or from the garage.
Kuehling said the improvements won't be finished for the reopening event at the Opera House on Oct. 1, but will be by the end of the year.
Overall, Kuehling estimates that about 6,000 parking spaces are available in existing garages and lots within walking distance of the Opera House and Scottrade to accommodate fans and Opera House goers. "And," he said, "there is MetroLink."
The city also lent a hand with financing for the $78.8 million Opera House renovation. It consisted of:
- Nearly $32.6 million in bonds issued by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.
- Just more than $28 million in state and federal historic, New Markets and Brownfield tax credit equity and proceeds.
- $10 million in first leasehold mortgage financing from Midland State Bank.
- $6.9 million as a deferred developer fee from the McKee brothers - Paul Joseph McKee III, president and CEO at Paric Corp., and Christopher McKee, principal at Optimus Development. They'll get the fee back after certain private debt is paid.
The developers did set some goals in the bond sale documents for how much revenue-producing entertainment would be coming to the restored Opera House.
Sept. 19: Nine Network presents "Prohibition" with Ken Burns
Oct. 1: Opening Night Gala
Oct. 4: Wilco (sold out)
Oct. 8: "Tommy" with Roger Daltrey
Oct. 12: Widespread Panic
Dec. 7-18: Scottrade Presents Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Dec. 31: St. Louis New Year's Eve Homecoming Comedy Jam featuring Cedric the Entertainer
Jan. 19-22, 2012: Sesame Street Live "Elmo Makes Music"
March 2-4, 2012: "American Idiot"
They said to expect 93 shows, concerts and events of various kinds in the main theater during the first year of operation, including 18 touring Broadway performances and 84 events in the side rooms.
John Urban, executive vice president for events and new business for SCP Worldwide, said that those projections "are ambitious," but also "seem well within reach."
Urban said that more shows and events in the main theater will be announced for this season, and that events are already booked in the side rooms as far out as 2014. Some, he said, have even booked the whole place for special events.
"We're finding that people are very interested in (booking) events of all kinds - corporate, social entertaining, charity. Some are even using more than one room in combinations. Weddings, for example," he said, "using one of the (side) rooms for cocktails, then going to the grand lobby for a reception."
An issue that came up earlier this year was the future ownership status for the Opera House.
St. Louis Blues owner David Checketts, chairman of SCP Worldwide, announced that he and other investors were trying to sell the Blues and SCP's lease at city-owned Scottrade Center. At the time, a SCP spokesman said that the lease for the city-owned Opera House, also held by SCP, would not be part of the sale.
Later, reports circulated that the Opera House was included in materials sent out to prospective Blues buyers. Bids are in but no announcements have been made yet.
Eric Gelfand, a SCP spokesman, in a recent e-mail exchange, had this to say about the Opera House status:
"To be clear, our intention is not to sell our interest in the Peabody Opera House. It is not part of the sale of the Blues and Scottrade Center. The option however has been included in the bid process just to show that it exists given the business synergies between the entities."
Charlene Prost is a freelance writer who has covered historic preservation.