Money raised to save The Great Passion Play (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ( 8 views 

Funds have been raised to stop foreclosure on the 677-acre property in Eureka Springs that is home to the iconic Christ of the Ozarks statue and the famed Passion Play.

Ada, Okla.-based The Gospel Station Network raised the $75,000 needed to avoid immediate foreclosure, but the event needs another $200,000 to open the 2013 season.

“Through ticket sales, donations, corporate sponsorships, and patrons, we can see this through,” noted a statement from the Network.

According to information from the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, the plan is to open the first weekend in May, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Wednesday and Sunday nights will be set aside for special events.

With the short-term cash infusion, the grounds should re-open and Christ of the Ozarks statue lit again soon.

Also, officials with the radio network and the Elna M. Smith Foundation said they will need to raise $6 million to renovate the facilities and ensure long-term financial viability for the property. The foundation operates the Play and the associated property.

Word that the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs could close was disclosed in early September. The unique outdoor theatre production of Jesus’ last days has been seen by some 7.5 million since 1967, but officials said there was not enough money to finish the 2012 season. The production is expensive, with costs including 150 actors and the support of numerous live animals.

The Passion Play faces “declining numbers and difficult times,” according to a statement from Keith Butler, chairman of the Elna Smith Foundation Board of Directors that oversees the operation, said in September.

However, funds were raised to complete the season.

But the foundation is now unable to pay the loan held by Eureka Springs-based Cornerstone Bank. Bank President Charlie Cross has said the bank hopes to sell the property.

“Mainly, we want to try to sell it to somebody who can do good things for Eureka Springs and help the economic viability of the town. That’s our goal,” Cross said in a Dec. 5 interview with KFSM 5 News.

In the same report, Cross said closing the property and ending the Passion Play will be “a big loss for our town.”

Produced by the Elna M. Smith Foundation, The Great Passion Play “serves as a spiritual center for Christians worldwide and is home to the Christ of the Ozarks Statue (7-stories tall), the Parables from the Potter, the interactive Living Bible Tour, the Sacred Arts Exhibit, the world-renowned Bible Museum (over 6,000 Bibles in 625 languages including a page from the Gutenberg Bible), David the Shepherd, the Top of the Mountain Dinner Theater, and gift shops,” according to the CJRW statement.