In 1985, the then-owner of the St. Louis Blues hockey
team contemplated relocating the team out of St. Louis, a move that
inspired members of the St. Louis business community to formulate
a plan to purchase the Blues and keep the club in St. Louis. In
1990, however, it became evident that the long-term viability of
the Blues required building a new hockey arena, one in which there
was common ownership between the team and the facility. Also obvious
was the need to replace the St. Louis Arena, a sixty-five-year-old
building that lacked many of the amenities needed for a first-class
professional sports team as well as to attract other events to St.
Louis. As a result, a group of major St. Louis corporations, all
members of the prominent Civic Progress organization (an organization
formed in 1953 and comprised of the chief executive officers of
the region’s 26 largest corporations), formed a limited partnership
called Kiel Center Partners, LP, to develop the project.
A variety of alternative sites and ownership structures
was explored. Ultimately, the site of St. Louis’ existing municipal
auditorium — the sixty-two-year-old Kiel Auditorium — was selected,
due to the availability of tax-exempt financing through the Transition
Rule in the 1986 Tax Reform Act. With the formation of Kiel Center
Partners, $62.4 million in tax-exempt bonds were issued prior to
the Transition Rule’s December 31, 1990, expiration date and the
decision was made to demolish the old Kiel Auditorium and Garage.
The City of St. Louis then agreed to lease the site
and assign certain development rights to Kiel Center Partners, including
a 25-year real estate tax abatement. With site control secured in
1991 through leases with various city agencies, arrangements were
made for the city’s participation in demolition, site preparation
and construction of a new parking garage. Also in 1991, Kiel Center
Partners, LP, and Civic Progress member companies acquired 100 percent
ownership of the St. Louis Blues.
In December 1992, Kiel Center (as the building was
called then) financing was completed, with $36.9 million in taxable
debt secured by three local banks and $30 million in equity invested
by Kiel Center Partners companies (along with guarantees for the
$100 million in debt). Financing was also completed by the city
for its portion of the project, with $10 million in tax-exempt bonds
issued for site preparation and $24.5 million in tax-exempt bonds
issued for garage and other improvements. Kiel Center Partners delivered
its formal developer readiness notice to city officials and demolition
of Kiel Auditorium and Garage officially began on December 14, 1992.
Kiel Center opened just 22 months later on October
8, 1994. In September 1999, Bill and Nancy Laurie of Columbia, Mo.
formed Paige Sports Entertainment and purchased the St. Louis Blues.
In June of 2006, Dave Checketts and Sports Capital Partners were
officially introduced as the new owners of the St. Louis Blues and
Scottrade Center. Sports Capital Partners privately operates the arena
under a long-term lease agreement with the City of St. Louis.