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Star Plaza Theatre being torn down

The interior of the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville is shown. The theater is being demolished.

The show's over.

Six months after the Oak Ridge Boys sang the final song ever performed on the stage of the landmark Star Plaza Theatre, demolition has begun on the 3,400-seat concert hall that put Merrillville on the map and entertained generations of Region residents with Broadway plays, "Sesame Street Live," and stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Garth Brooks, Chris Rock, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera.

The demolition contractor Environmental Cleansing Corp. has been tearing apart the concert venue, which was one of the largest indoor theaters in both Indiana and the greater Chicago metropolitan area and was the home to the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra.

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Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show
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Gallery: The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show
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Gallery: The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show
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Gallery: The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show
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Gallery: The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show

Owner White Lodging plans to redevelop the northwest quadrant of U.S. 30 and Interstate 65 with a new hotel, restaurants and green space. The Merrillville-based hotel developer already razed the Radisson at Star Plaza, and plans to tear down the golden Twin Towers as well.

White Lodging spokeswoman Kathleen Sebastian said the demolition of the concert hall should take about three months.

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"We should be finished by the end of December with both the theater and the Twin Towers," she said. 

The Star Plaza drew A-list acts when it first opened in 1979, such as the then-chart-topping Disco Queen Donna Summer. A Chicago Tribune article in the 1980s described it as a "cornfield colossus" in a story with the headline "How A Bigtime Showbiz Theater Came To The 'Middle Of Nowhere.'"

The concert venue helped transform Merrillville and Hobart into a major destination for shopping, dining and hospitality, but lost ground over the years as music's biggest stars gravitated more toward stadium shows and music festivals than to dated indoor theaters that are less lucrative to play at because of the smaller seating capacity.

White Lodging expressed reluctance to invest in major maintenance projects on the nearly four-decades-old building, which was only hosting about 100 shows a year — mostly familiar, tried-and-true acts like Alice Cooper and Weird Al Yankovic — near the end of its run.

After a public outpouring of lamentation over its looming closure, White Lodging gave the concert hall an encore last year, but nostalgia ultimately wasn't enough to save the Star Plaza Theatre. The developer reversed course again, deciding all 30 acres of the site would be needed for the redevelopment project, the details of which have not yet been made public.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.