Decades-Old Passion Play Needs $75K By Wednesday To Stay Open
Officials for the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs are scrambling to raise the $75,000 needed by Wednesday to keep the property from being transferred over to a local bank.
Organizers announced about a month ago that the play showcasing the last days of Jesus Christ’s life would shut down for the first time since it was introduced 45 years ago. Since then, a gospel radio station out of Ada, Okla., has stepped forward to help raise the cash needed to save the play.
The play needs to pay Cornerstone Bank $75,000 by Tuesday to keep the Passion Play open for another season. Organizers are inching toward the goal and have collected about $28,000, with another $24,000 match being pledged by a separate donor, said Kent Butler, spokesperson with the Elna M. Smith Foundation, a non-profit organization that runs the Passion Play.
“I think we’ll make it,” he said.
Butler said he expects the Passion Play to be back for another season and that he always had faith it would be saved.
“God sometimes works miracles through people,” he said.
Passion Play organizers contacted Cornerstone Bank after its 2012 season to say the play could not fulfill its debt payment obligations to the bank, said Charlie Cross, president of Cornerstone Bank.
Cross said the bank will take over the 677-acre property and sell it if the Passion Play cannot pay the $75,000 payment. The bank has seen interest from prospective buyers on the property, he said.
Since the bank is closed on New Year’s Day, employees will examine whether Passion Play officials have enough money to pay off debt interest Wednesday morning, Cross said.
Cross hopes the Passion Play can reach its goal.
“We’re hopeful we’ll have good news Wednesday,” he said. “We’ll have our fingers crossed.”
The play opened in 1968 with 7.6 million visitors from all over the world. A decline in attendance in the last few years led to the play’s apparent shutdown.
Butler said the foundation hasn’t missed a payment on loan money from the bank, but it doesn’t have the money to continue.