Kearney Arch to learn its fate next month

Officials said it would cost the state $5 million to take down the Great Platte River Road Archway as required if the attraction over Interstate 80 is forced to close.

KEARNEY, Neb. — In about a month, a bankruptcy judge will announce whether the Great Platte River Road Archway can remain open and continue its fight for survival.

Joel Johnson, chairman of the archway's foundation, said he and other supporters expect to learn Sept. 18 if the bankruptcy court will approve the archway's proposal to pay $50,000 to vendors and suppliers and another $50,000 to bondholders.

If the bankruptcy judge accepts the $100,000 proposal, the archway will pay creditors by using most of the $140,000 in pledges it recently acquired from supporters.

The rest of the $140,000 could go to legal expenses, which include hiring a law firm to find all bondholders to inform them of the payoff proposal.

Johnson said that if the creditors reject the proposal, the archway will close because it lacks the cash to remain open.

In March, the archway filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection because it owes bondholders $20 million and vendors and suppliers about $120,000.

Creditors can accept the payoff proposal, deny it or not answer, Johnson said, adding that some vendors and suppliers have agreed to accept the offer.

“Not responding is treated by the court, in large part, as not objecting to the settlement,” Johnson said, adding that he doesn't know what the response is among bondholders.

If most creditors agree, Johnson said he expects the bankruptcy court will approve the proposal, but he estimates the archway will emerge from bankruptcy with only three weeks' worth of operating funds.

If the archway's proposal is rejected and the attraction closes, the structure must be removed from over Interstate 80. That $5 million expense would fall to the Nebraska Department of Roads, Johnson said.

After it opened in 2000, the archway contributed $80,000 to a fund for the structure's removal, but low attendance prevented additional contributions.

Johnson said that if the Roads Department must remove the archway, it would likely recoup the expense by delaying or cutting back on highway projects in the Kearney area.

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