LINCOLN — Billionaire Joe Ricketts believes the sprawling Jesuit retreat center he’s building south of Gretna will be “a wonder of the world.”

And that’s in part thanks to a group of sculptors from around the country who’ve spent two years crafting about 60 7-foot-tall figures for a massive Stations of the Cross walk at the center, he told a group of Nebraska State Historical Society and Foundation members and guests at a private event in Lincoln on Monday.

Ricketts, along with one of the sculptors, Nebraska native George Lundeen, spoke to about 100 at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. It’s one of the first times Ricketts, who founded Omaha’s TD Ameritrade and is the father of Gov. Pete Ricketts, has addressed a group publicly about his pricey passion project, The Cloisters on the Platte.

The 931-acre retreat center off Nebraska Highway 31 and Fishery Road will cost at least $20 million, according to building permits filed with Sarpy County. The land cost Ricketts an additional $13.6 million in 2014. He has declined to offer a total cost for the whole undertaking.

It’s on track to open in summer 2018, Ricketts told the group. And he thinks it’s poised to become a national and international tourist destination, thanks to the Stations of the Cross walk.

Retreats will run on weekends, but the Stations of the Cross will be open to the public Monday through Thursday, he said.

“It’s such a unique situation,” Lundeen said, “And we’re so blessed to be part of it. It’s been a wonderful experience so far. And it isn’t over yet.”

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