Countless performers like Liberace, Megadeath and Clint Black have taken the stage of Merrillville's landmark Star Plaza Theatre.
The Oak Ridge Boys played there 107 times, The O'Jays 75 times and B.B. King 59 times over the decades.
The music will fade next April when White Lodging will tear down the concert venue after razing the adjoining Radisson at Star Plaza hotel in January to make room for a new high-end hotel and standalone restaurant. But the memory of the Star Plaza will not.
The new 215-room hotel, which could stand six stories tall, will feature a room with some of the memorabilia and photos of music and comedy legends that are now on display in the Star Cafe in the Radisson, Star Productions President and CEO Charlie Blum said.
White Lodging is still working out details, such as if there would also be a plaque explaining the history of the 3,400-seat theater that was built in 1979 and deemed too outdated to renovate.
The Merrillville-based lodging company, which started out with just the Star Plaza and now is a $1 billion hospitality industry giant with 165 hotels in 19 states, has not yet announced the brand of the new hotel or finished the design. White Lodging plans to adjust to current market conditions in Northwest Indiana by building a new hotel with about 100 fewer rooms and 18,000 fewer square feet of meeting space than the hotel that stands there now. The new hotel will be more upscale and contemporary than the Radisson, which was originally built as a Holiday Inn in 1969.
South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos said the new hotel at Interstate 65 and U.S. 30 would be an up-market flag Northwest Indiana has long needed.
A historical exhibit about the Star Plaza Theatre, originally the Holiday Star, would be in keeping with other high-end hotels. 21c in Louisville, the Alexander Hotel in Indianapolis and the InterContinental Milwaukee all have public galleries as an amenity for guests and others.
White Lodging started displaying Star Plaza Theatre memorabilia in the Radisson hotel in 2007 when it built the Star Cafe as part of a $10 million renovation project. The cafe offers a dinner buffet before concerts and also doubles as the Wisecrackers Comedy Club on Friday and Saturday nights.
The walls are lined with photos of hundreds of performers who have played there, such as Liza Minnelli, Tony Bennett, Richard Pryor, Michael Bolton and Aerosmith. There's also glass cases full of memorabilia such as guitars and a DVD of "Ray" autographed by Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx.
Though it's a trove of famous faces, the only item that was ever stolen from the Star Cafe was a photo of Olivia Newton-John, Blum said.
"I'm definitely going to bring that up when I talk to her about booking shows," he said.
White Lodging's announcement had led to some speculation about what would become of all the memorabilia, such as if it would be auctioned off.
But Blum said there will definitely be a place for it somewhere in the new hotel.
"The Star Plaza will be remembered," he said. "Like your paper said, this is the end of an era. But the Star Plaza won't be forgotten."