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Checketts to Revitalize Opera House

by Staff Writer / St. Louis Blues
Construction has begun to revitalize the Peabody Opera House on Market Street. Plans are to re-open the venue in Fall 2011 (Photo by Mark Buckner).

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ST. LOUIS – The rebirth of the Opera House at Henry Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis became a reality today with the formal announcement of the financing and start of construction on the historic downtown performing arts and cultural center, which will reopen in Fall 2011 as the Peabody Opera House.

The St. Louis Blues ownership group, headed by Dave Checketts and including local partner Tom Stillman, is joining with Optimus Development, headed by Chris McKee, to spearhead the rehabilitation and renovation of the iconic downtown building.

Paric Corporation, headed by Joe McKee, will serve as general contractor in partnership with KAI Design and Build. And Peabody Energy, whose global headquarters are located only a few blocks away in downtown St. Louis, will support the effort as naming rights partner.

The event was attended by dozens of civic and business leaders as well as St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who announced last week the successful closing of financing for the $78.7 million redevelopment of the historic building. Construction has already begun with an anticipated reopening of the Peabody Opera House in Fall 2011.

"Today is a momentous day for the City of St. Louis,” said Checketts, chairman of the St. Louis Blues and CEO/Chairman of SCP Worldwide. “We now have everything in place to restore this St. Louis treasure, including the support of Peabody Energy. Peabody understands the historical relevance of this facility and the role its renovation and reopening will play for St. Louisans and visitors to downtown for generations to come.

“I would like to thank Mayor Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and Alderwoman Phyllis Young, our partners Mike McCarthy, Ken Munoz and Tom Stillman, as well as the McKee Family. They have all shared in our vision and, without their commitment and tremendous hard work, we would not be at this place today."

“For more than half a century, Peabody has called downtown St. Louis home as we power people’s lives all over the world,” said Peabody Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Greg Boyce. “We are now proud to help turn this opera house into a home for creative energy, brightening people’s lives and further enhancing the city’s magnificent cultural landscape. The Peabody Opera House is a product of the vision and hard work of Mayor Slay, Dave Checketts, the McKees, and the many other community leaders and skilled workers who are polishing this St. Louis gem back to its original luster.”

The Peabody Opera House will be operated by an affiliate of SCP Worldwide and will offer citizens a variety of theater and musical events, including events produced by Running Subway, SCP Worldwide’s New York‐based production company. The completed venue will provide jobs and entertainment options in the City of St. Louis, including the creation of 480 construction jobs with a total payroll over $23 million.

"Over the past three years and under very difficult economic conditions, our team worked tirelessly to make this project happen,” said Chris McKee, president of Optimus. “Many people deserve credit, especially my dad Paul, my brother Joe, Dave Checketts, and the Mayor. These folks believed in our team and this extraordinary building from the very beginning. The Peabody Opera House project will not only provide hundreds of new jobs to the region but also awaken an area that is vital to downtown."

The plan for the renovation and reopening of the Peabody Opera House, an architectural gem opened in 1934 on Market Street in downtown St. Louis, was approved by the Board of Aldermen in June 2009. The City’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) issued $32.6 million in bonds to finance a portion of the development. More than $46 million in state and federal historic tax credits, federal New Markets Tax Credits, Brownfield tax credits, and first mortgage debt complete the financing.

“The renovation and reopening of the Peabody Opera House is very important to Downtown,” said Mayor Slay. “A reopened Opera House will bring new visitors to Downtown, bring more entertainment options to our City, and save a prominent, beautiful building from years of abandonment and decay. This is great news for the City, for the Gateway Mall, and for architecture, theater and music lovers everywhere. It took a lot of work from a lot of people to get this development moving. I’m grateful to everyone – and I’m very happy to see the Opera House moving forward.

“Dave Checketts has a proven track record with renovating and rehabilitating great spaces,” continued Mayor Slay. “He brought Radio City Music Hall back to life – and, with Optimus Development and Paric – will add another incredible entertainment venue to Downtown St. Louis.”

The project is being made possible by numerous local financial institutions. Lenders include Peoples National Bank (Forrest Langenfeld), Midland States Bank (Tom Flores, Steve Walden), and Holekamp Capital (Bill Holekamp, Paul Tice). Stifel Nicolaus (Peter J. Czajkowski) is serving as the bond underwriter while US Bank (Steve Kramer and Matt Masiel) is providing tax credit equity for the project.

More information, including artist renderings and the building's historical significance, is available at

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ABOUT SCP WORLDWIDE: Based in New York City, SCP Worldwide is a growing sports, entertainment and media enterprise operated by some of the industry’s most successful executives. The firm is built on a model of selecting undervalued franchises, venues and real estate opportunities and building them into robust business ventures. SCP Worldwide owns a diverse array of properties that include the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues, Scottrade Center, the famed Peabody Opera House in St. Louis as well as the Blues' AHL affiliate Peoria Rivermen. The company also owns and operates the 2009 MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake and its home ‐ Rio Tinto Stadium ‐ a soccer‐specific facility with related entertainment elements in Sandy, Utah as well as KALL700 Sports Radio in Salt Lake City.

Additionally, the company holds a significant interest in Running Subway, the New York based live entertainment company which recently opened "Discovery Times Square Exposition" in New York City. Discovery TSX is a 60,000 square foot space where touring exhibits, which previously by‐passed NYC, can now come to life. SCP also owns the much heralded Tupelo‐Honey Productions, a multi‐disciplined, full‐service production company. SCP also maintains a relationship with world‐renowned soccer franchise, Real Madrid, the 30‐time La Liga champion. Additionally, they own an interest in emerging sports new media company Mangia, as well as fantasy sports website

SCP Worldwide ( consists of proven sports, media, entertainment and finance executives including David W. Checketts, its chairman and founding member and his partners, Michael McCarthy, Kenneth Munoz, Steve Potter and Carl Vogel.

ABOUT PEABODY ENERGY: Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is the world’s largest private sector coal company and a global leader in clean coal solutions. With 2009 sales of 244 million tons and $6 billion in revenues, Peabody fuels 10 percent of U.S. power and 2 percent of worldwide electricity. Peabody: Energizing the world… one Btu at a time.
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