The Great Platte River Road Archway has filed for bankruptcy.
The archway, which spans Interstate 80 east of Kearney, has struggled with finances almost since its opening in 2000. Bond holders in 2002 agreed to a refinancing of its original $60 million debt, reducing it to $22 million to be repaid by 2013.
But the roadside museum continued to struggle with its bond payments, which led to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed Wednesday in the Omaha U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District Court of Nebraska. The attraction owes bond holders $20 million and a laundry list of vendors more than $120,000.
A list of its top creditors ranges from $31,518 owed insurance company Chub & Son of Pittsburgh, Pa., to $911 owed to Eakes Office Plus of Grand Island.
The archway has asked to be allowed to continue operating and retain its 10 paid employees while the court works out a settlement. The board plans to take out a loan of up to $100,000 at 6 percent interest to cover day-to-day expenses and pay its attorney, according to the filing.
The Kearney Visitors Bureau is guaranteeing the debt, which is to be repaid by January 2014.
The arch has failed to meet attendance projections that attracted initial investors to buy up the $60 million worth of bonds issued in 1997. Supporters projected 700,000 would visit the opening year. The board initially declined to release attendance numbers for 2000 but later said the turnstile count was 300,000.
Director Gary Roubicek said the archway attracted 72,000 visitors in 2012.
The Kearney Hub reported Wednesday attendance in 2000 was 223,013; in 2001 was 249,174; and in 2012 was 49,960. The newspaper did not list a specific source for the numbers.