St. Louis Opera House Reborn

The Kiel Opera House – a St. Louis historical landmark and neighbor to the Scottrade Center – is getting a $74 million facelift with the expectation of opening by next Christmas.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved the restoration in a 25-1 vote June 5. The only opposition came from alderwoman Marlene Davis, who said the deal was rushed, according to KWMU News. She represents the Nineteenth Ward, which includes the Fox Theatre. Representatives of the Fox have opposed the deal, saying the city is subsidizing their competition.

The redevelopment is spearheaded by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues hockey team, which holds the lease on the building. The developers will get $29 million in federal and state tax credits and must sell $29 million in bonds, paid back over 25 years from a 5 percent “amusement tax” the team sells on every ticket, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Opera House has been dormant since a philharmonic orchestra performance in 1991, but its beginnings mirror the current climate, the Post-Dispatch noted. A few months after the city opened the opera house in 1934, owners of the Fox and other big theatres balked when the city suggested it wanted to bring in big acts, like the Ziegfeld Follies, to the venue.

It would steal business, the owners said, and would have the unfair advantage of taxpayer subsidy, according to the paper.

The opera house’s neighboring arena, the Scottrade Center, hosts the Blues and has the same owner as the team in Dave Checketts.