KielCenter Acquires YetAnother FunnyName

by Michael R. Allen

Did ScotTrade champion the 1923 bond issue? Did Savvis use his stature to endorse much-needed reform to the government structure of St. Louis?

Of course not. These are accomplishments of Henry Kiel, Republican mayor of St. Louis from 1913 until 1925. The eponymous Kiel Opera House and Auditorium, built in 1934, has stood diminished in both building and name for years now. The city wrecked the auditorium section of the building in 1991 to build the new Kiel Center hockey arena, and the leaseholders of the arena soon sought to lease naming rights. The creepy-sounding Savvis purchased the name in 2000, and the compound-named ScottTrade just purchased the name and is calling the arena “ScottTrade Center.” When Savvis purchased the name, Bi-State Development Agency had to rename the Kiel Center MetroLink station “Civic Center Station.”

Perhaps if the company names that have appeared on the arena were less ridiculous than “Savvis” and “ScottTrade,” I would believe that the arena bore a respectable name. As it is, I am embarrassed to think that my city would have the name “ScottTrade” on a building that is technically a public building and that once was named for one of the best St. Louis mayors ever.

Of course, the name sale generates revenue for the owners of the arena lease, who in turn can generate sales tax revenue for the city government and economic activity. But should the name of a public place ever be available for purchase? While some fees are generated, the purchaser of naming rights is using a building belonging to the public to support a perpetual and prominent advertisement. The gains to ScottTrade upon the new name are far greater than any to the general public — and that’s an arrangement that runs counter to the legacy of Henry Kiel, who oversaw the largest public works effort in the city’s history. How ironic that his name would be stamped out for the clumsy, generic corporate moniker ScottTrade.