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KDB Group abruptly announces Jan. 15 closure of Scottish Rite Theatre, Betty Jayne Brimmer Center

Developer Kim Blickenstaff at the 2019 ribbon cutting for the Betty Jayne Center for the Performing Arts in Peoria Heights.
Tim Shelley
Developer Kim Blickenstaff at the 2019 ribbon cutting for the Betty Jayne Center for the Performing Arts in Peoria Heights.

The Scottish Rite Theatre and Betty Jayne Brimmer Center for the Performing Arts will be shutting down effective Jan. 15.

That's according to a press release Wednesday from the KDB Group, the development company of Spring Bay native and multimillionaire Kim Blickenstaff.

In the release, the company says it is reevaluating the scope of its existing and future operations and properties in the Peoria area.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the city did not have any advance knowledge of KDB's decision, and he hopes the shutdown of the Scottish Rite Theatre is short-lived.

“While we’re saddened to hear of the news, at this point without knowing any more I hope it's simply a temporary closure and that they're back in business sooner rather than later,” said Urich.

“If not, hopefully with the amount of money invested in the space, someone will certainly come along and express some interest in doing something with it.”

The KDB Group also owns the Sankoty Lakes resort outside Spring Bay. Blickenstaff is currently embroiled in a Woodford County lawsuit with the original owners of that property. Several other projects and proposals in the Peoria area were announced and publicized widely over the past few years, but haven't gained much traction.

Those include Blickenstaff's plans for a nature-focused revival of Al Fresco Park, and his purchases of buildings like the Peoria Armory and the former Koinonia House. The Hale Memorial Church owned by the KDB Group was demolished last year after engineers found the building was beyond saving.

“I want to really express our gratitude to the KDB Group for the investments that they’ve made in the region and specifically in Peoria, and wish them well as they make their determination about where their direction goes,” said Urich.

Blickenstaff was also the progenitor of the "InterPlay Park" concept spanning Interstate 74 in downtown Peoria. Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a WCBU reporter last year there weren't active discussions currently happening on that project.

The Scottish Rite Theatre is located in the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral just outside downtown Peoria. The venue opened in fall 2021, after an extensive renovation. The Betty Jayne Brimmer Center is based in the former Peoria Heights public library building.

Social media pages for both venues were inaccessible as of Wednesday afternoon. All shows and events planned at the venues after Jan. 15 were removed from the KDB Group's website.

Previously announced events that had been scheduled for the Betty Jayne Brimmer Center include Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra concerts on Feb. 1 and March 1, Gypsy Jazz hosted by the Romaniacs on Feb. 11, and four one-night dancing lessons on Jan. 27 (swing), Feb. 24 (line), March 24 (disco) and April 28 (salsa).

The Scottish Rite Theatre's Jan. 14 premiere of the documentary film Hearts of Gold: The Ray Fauber Story is still on, one of the filmmakers confirms.

Urich said event spaces like the theater add to the quality of life and community in the region, noting the Scottish Rite Theatre hosted Mayor Rita Ali's State of the City address last year.

He said he doesn't expect the city to actively search for new investors to replace KDB.

“In a lot of ways, that’s what the private sector needs to do. Certainly, the KDB Group was doing it without any public investment coming in in a lot of places and that’s something we appreciated,” said Urich. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but we’ll hopefully have discussions with them in the future to see what this means and where they’re going.”

The company declined an interview request on Wednesday. A spokesperson also declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the decision, or whether Sankoty Lakes may also be affected.

Blickenstaff made his fortune working in the medical sector, most recently as the head of Tandem Diabetes Care. The Spring Bay native embarked on a number of Peoria-area developments when he returned to the area a few years ago.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.