Kearney Arch backers seek public, private pledges - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:42 am
Kearney Arch backers seek public, private pledges

KEARNEY, Neb. — Archway leaders and supporters will ask the City of Kearney and Buffalo County for money to keep Kearney's embattled icon afloat.

Joel Johnson, chairman of the Great Platte River Road Archway Foundation, said he and others already have approached city and county officials and soon will formally request $200,000 from each for the next three years for a total of $1.2 million.

“We have to find a source of revenue beyond admissions, and what we want to propose to the city and county is that they help us out for three years so we can get back on our feet and start raising money from foundations and individuals with the type of support most museums use to keep their doors open,” Johnson said.

The requests for public funding come as archway officials draft a recovery plan as part of the archway's Chapter 11 bankruptcy. An effort also has been started to enlist $140,000 in private pledges.

Kearney businessman Tom Henning, who is leading a private effort to save the archway, told about 30 community leaders at a meeting Tuesday that their pledges are needed.

He said that in just a few days he already has gathered $50,000 in pledges, and “now we need to raise another $90,000 in the next two or three weeks.”

The archway will incorporate the pledges and possible support from the city and county in its bankruptcy reorganization plan to repay bondholders and vendors and cover operating expenses until a permanent operating plan is in place.

Dave Oldfather, a member of the archway foundation's board, said at Tuesday's meeting that archway officials hope the bankruptcy judge decides that only a small sum must be paid to bondholders.

“The big unknown is what the judge says we owe the bondholders,” Oldfather said. “We've proposed $50,000, but if the judge says $1 million, we don't have anything.”

Johnson, archway business manager Sharm Loeffler and the archway's counsel met two weeks ago in Lincoln with bankruptcy court officials. They said they see no way that the archway can repay the $20 million it owes bondholders.

The archway also owes suppliers and vendors more than $121,000.

Johnson said Monday that the archway expects an uptick in admissions this year when Kearney's east Interstate 80 interchange opens one mile east of the archway.

The opening of a Nebraska Department of Tourism visitors center inside the archway also could boost admissions, as could the flood of tourists expected in Kearney for the June 30-July 1 national centennial of the Lincoln Highway.

Because of high gasoline prices and hot weather, the archway's 2012 attendance of 49,960 was the lowest since the attraction opened in 2000.

In 2012, operating expenses exceeded the operational income of $480,000 by about $365,000.

During the bankruptcy hearing two weeks ago, Johnson said the bondholders' attorney asked whether added attendance might allow the archway to repay its bond debt.

Johnson said attendance increases of 30 percent or 50 percent wouldn't be enough to cover operating expenses, but without bond debt, the archway would come close to covering operational costs if it doubled attendance.

“Sharm Loeffler then said we even projected what a 100 percent increase would do. The archway would be closer to self-sustaining, but there still would be no money for the bondholders,” he said.

According to Johnson, the archway made bond payments in 2002 and 2003, but attendance fell off after the early years, and the only payments after those came when the archway collected on two hail damage settlements and sold property for the nearby I-80 exit.

Oil industry ad campaign mocks Nebraska cowboys who protested Keystone XL pipeline
In Omaha, bus tour calls for hourly minimum wage over $10
Fremont police searching for missing 56-year-old man
Prosecutor: Baby might be alive if day care employer had spoken up
NRA seeks universal gun law at national meeting
Beau McCoy calls Pete Ricketts a 'convenient conservative' for immigration stance
Omaha senator seeks minimum wage ballot measure
Agreement reached to end dog racing at Bluffs Run at end of 2015
Police probe bank robbery
Man accused of trying to open flying plane's door pleads not guilty
Ben Sasse shifts tactics, calls ad by Shane Osborn 'hypocritical'
Forecast on the upswing after Thursday's rain
EB Harney Street lane closed
Ex-UNMC student loses appeal; claimed program didn't make accommodations for his depression
Grace: Your older self has a request — use sunscreen
At NU's helm, J.B. Milliken built the university by building relationships with state leaders
City's Personnel Board is behind ‘ban-the-box’ proposal
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Richard Paul Dreier, 90, was wounded in attack during WWII
Police issue arrest warrant in teen's shooting death
Kelly: Huskers' glory days of '80s live on — on the small screen and on stage
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Construction to start in May on West Broadway apartment/retail structure
3 Nebraska Board of Education candidates call for high standards
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: 117-mph riding lawnmowers and 12-scoop banana splits
The Chicago White Sox are selling a 12-scoop banana split inside a full-size batting helmet for $17. You know what you'd call someone in Chicago who'd eat this? "Health nut."
Breaking Brad: Walmart beats Russia, stakes a claim on the moon
Russia is claiming it owns a section of the moon. If you follow the news, you know this probably doesn't end well.
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Kelly: Huskers' glory days of '80s live on — on the small screen and on stage
The 1984 NFL draft was unusual for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and these days it's remembered in the name of a rock band, the 1984 Draft. Tonight, the band is featured on the NFL Network.
Breaking Brad: Nebraska GOP candidates unified against naked squirrels
Some of these Nebraska campaigns are tilting pretty far right. At a recent forum, there was a consensus that we need to ban public dancing and clothe naked squirrels in public parks.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
7M Grill
Half Off Delicious Comfort Fusion Food & Drinks!
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »