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Vote likely next week on Kiel Opera House ordinances

(Rachel Lippmann/KWMU)
A group of developers wants to reopen the Kiel Opera House, at the corner of 14th and Market, by Nov. 2010. It has been vacant since 1991

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis aldermen will likely vote next week on legislation that would enable the renovation of the Kiel Opera House.

The performing arts venue has sat vacant since 1991, and several past reopening attempts have failed. Sports Capital Partners, Inc., the management company that owns the St. Louis Blues and the neighboring Scottrade Center, wants to reopen the facility by November 2010 - meaning construction would have to start in August.

Aldermen on the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee had trouble digesting the hundreds of pages in bills that were just introduced last Friday. SCP is disappointed by the delay, said company partner Ken Mu oz, but the delay will not put them behind schedule.

"I don't think it's the project," Mu oz said. "I think everyone agrees this is an extraordinary project, and it's extraordinary for the city."

Financing for the $70 million project will come partially from the sale of bonds, which will be repaid using revenue from the amusement tax on Blues tickets. The legislation includes provisions, however, that require the developer to make up any difference between the bond payment that's due and the revenue from the amusement tax. SCP would also have to pay off the bonds if the Blues leave St. Louis in the next 25 years.

Not everyone at the Wednesday committee meeting was enthusiastic about Kiel's potential reopening.

"If we're going to have a competitor in the market, we'd rather not have a competitor that is basically handed a facility on the backs of taxpayers," said Richard Baker, who operates the Fox Theatre in the Grand Center.

Mu oz called the view "narrow" and "parochial." There are more than enough events, especially concerts, to go around, he said.


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