KEARNEY — Supporters of the Great Platte River Road Archway pitched their proposal to save the attraction to the Buffalo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The archway filed for bankruptcy in April owing bondholders and vendors more than $20 million. As the bankruptcy heads through court, supporters are piecing together a recovery plan.
The supervisors’ boardroom was packed as Tom Henning, a Kearney businessman leading the effort with the archway, brought the board up to date on the plan to get the archway out of bankruptcy.
Supporters are asking the county and city of Kearney for $200,000 a piece for three years for a total of $1.2 million. In addition to the request, the group is collecting $140,000 in pledges and donations from private citizens. Henning said they have $92,000 in pledges already.
“Your support is going to be key with making this thing work,” Henning said. “You and the city both.”
The archway suffered from a record low attendance last year, with 49,960 guests turning off Interstate 80 to visit. In 2012, operating expenses exceeded the operational income of $480,000 by about $365,000.
Henning said archway administration has started planning for the future, including starting a marketing plan, applying for educational and historical grants, and starting an endowment fund.
“It’s really an icon for the city, the county and the state,” Henning said of the archway, advising the board that other parties might be interested in purchasing the archway. “(Someone could) put in a venue that would be totally undesirable.”
The board had little to say about the archway, but used the presentation time to ask questions of the archway administration. District 2 Supervisor Buss Biehl of rural Kearney cautioned that the county might not have the funds or public’s backing to support the proposal.
“This is a county board, we’re not a city board,” Biehl said. “I don’t live in Kearney. I don’t represent people who live in Kearney, except for southeast Kearney, and there’s hardly any of those who give a hoot whether the arch is there or not. I’m not saying this is not a good deal, but I just left a budget meeting this morning, and we probably don’t have the bucks.”