Three-Study Opera

No one wants to talk about what it will cost to reopen Kiel Opera House and who should pay for it. But now comes yet another consultant -- paid $100,000 by St. Louis 2004 -- saying Kiel should not be reopened.

"I'll circle that day on my calendar," says Sauer. "I'm seeing a lot of hat -- I want to see some cattle. I don't see it. I just hear talk.

"We've given them access. Ed's been here many, many times," Sauer adds. "If he's got a financeable deal, then it will speak for itself."

Sauer accepts the conclusions of the previous studies. Both the ULI study, paid for by the city and Kiel Partners, and the study paid for by St. Louis 2004 dismissed any idea of opening the Opera House as performance venue.

"Who's next? How many times do we have to hear this? That's in Technicolor to me," Sauer says. "If it makes economic sense to open it again, someone will put that deal together."

The final version of the ULI study, received last week, stuck to its original recommendations. Steve Engelhardt, spokesman for St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green, says they have met with Golterman's group. "We want any group to do its due diligence up front, so that the hard questions are asked up front," says Engelhardt. "We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past. The original deal was unworkable and unrealistic."

Just to open the Opera House means making it accessible to the disabled, at a cost of $2 million, and "seismic retrofitting" to make the building meet current codes, at a cost of another $7 million. So the original figure of $2.5 million for renovating the Opera House showed both the city and Kiel Center Partners were way off-base, Engelhardt says.

Golterman had prospective investors tour the Opera House last week and says that John Kinnamon, who runs a dinner theater between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, is interested in using the Kiel Club and one of the assembly rooms for a dinner theater. Goltermann says other local arts groups could use one of the other assembly rooms, which could seat as many as 600 for productions.

For financing, Golterman says, Palm Capital Investors of Boca Raton, Fla., has discussed issuing private bonds to help finance the deal. Through it all, Golterman and his citizen group are driven, optimistically working toward a lease proposal and a "feasibility study" next month.

"I hate that phrase, but if they want us to call it a feasibility study, we'll do it," Golterman says. "But I absolutely hate that phrase, because while we're doing studies, other cities are doing.

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