Last-Minute Donations May Keep Passion Play Open
A month after declaring a shutdown, the Great Passion Play of Eureka Springs may rise from the dead.
The 45-year-old play that chronicles the last days of Jesus Christ has received the $75,000 in pledge money Wednesday needed to keep the property from being taken over by a local bank.
Organizers notified Cornerstone Bank after the 2012 season that the Passion Play would not be able to come up with the debt payments owed by the play. The bank was set to take over the 677-acre property on the first business day of the new year, unless the Passion Play could come up with $75,000.
With help from a gospel radio network out of Ada, Okla., play organizers started collecting donation money. They had $52,000 by Monday, with just two days left until the deadline.
Despite a last-minute push, the Passion Play is still $2,500 short in actual cash, but organizers are confident their pledged money and donations yet to be counted will push the play over its goal by Thursday. Bank attorneys agreed Wednesday to extend the Passion Play’s deadline by one day, said Kent Butler, spokesperson with the Elna M. Smith Foundation, a non-profit organization that runs the Passion Play.
Bank officials also agreed to redo the loans that would allow the play to run for another season, Butler said.
Bank President Charlie Cross said he had his fingers crossed this week while hoping the Passion Play made its financial goal.
Cross said Cornerstone Bank has had a long relationship with Passion Play officials, and he wants to continue business with them.
Several possible clients showed interest in the property, had it been transferred to the bank, Cross said.
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 did not miss a payment on loan money from the bank, but it didn’t have the money to continue, at the time.