Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
The Archway (also known as The Great Platte River Road Archway or Kearney Arch) is a museum of and monument to Nebraska's and the Platte River valley's role in westward expansion. The Archway is directly over Interstate 80 three miles (5 km) east of Kearney, Nebraska.
Designed by a Walt Disney team, The Archway spans more than 300 feet over Interstate 80 west of Kearney, NE and weighs nearly 1,500-tons. The Archway takes visitors along the trails, rails, highways and superhighways in a self-guided audio tour that includes stories of the travelers along the way. The show starts in the 1840s with the Mormon trail, Oregon trail and California trail that converged at the nearby Fort Kearny before heading west. Visitors start out at Fort Kearny as they head through the exhibit through the different time periods with displays featuring a buffalo stampede, the Mormon Handcart Expedition, gold seekers, the Pony Express, the telegraph, the transcontinental railroad, the Lincoln Highway, a drive in movie and a 1950s cafe. Hours for The Archway are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sunday noon-5 through Memorial Day. Visitors now have a new exit (Exit 275) that is immediately east of The Archway and provides close, easy access. Exit 272 that goes into Kearney is still able to provide access to The Archway.
A monument and tourist attraction highlighting the Platte River valley was a goal of former Governor Frank B. Morrison. In 1997, $60 million in bonds were issued and purchased by investors. On 16 July 2000, the Archway opened to the public, with 223,013 and 249,174 visitors in the attraction's first two years, respectively. First-year visitors included then-president Bill Clinton. These numbers fell far short of projections, however, and forced the monument to cut expenses and refinance its bond payments in 2002, reducing the amount owed to $22 million, repaid by 2013.
While a shift in focus to educational and group tours briefly presented the monument with a more stable financial footing, attendance dwindled in years to come, counting only 49,960 visitors in 2012. The Archway filed for bankruptcy protection on March 7, 2013. In September 2013, U.S. federal bankruptcy judge Thomas Saladino approved a debt plan, ordering museum organizers to pay $100,000 as a settlement for more than $20 million it owed to bondholders, creditors and vendors. Wells Fargo Bank of Minneapolis was the trustee for the bondholders.
As part of the resolution of the bankruptcy filing, The Archway is under contracted management by the City of Kearney. A second I-80 interchange was completed in August 2013 directly east of the museum at a cost of about $20 million, expected to boost attendance. Previously, eastbound travelers who missed the exit two miles west of the museum, would've had to go 12 miles out of their way in order to get there. The lack of such an exit had been long blamed for part of the Archway's troubles.
In December 2013, the museum announced it would be closing for two months in order to re-brand itself following its debt ruling, scheduling its grand re-opening for 1 March 2014.
The Archway re-opened on March 1, 2014. Changes made to the family-oriented attraction include a revamped gift shop, a new theater showing a short video detailing the building of the structure and its placement over the interstate as well as a new mascot, Archie the Buffalo.
- The lobby escalator is the 2nd longest in the state of Nebraska.
- 360 ft (110 m) of fiber optics is utilized in the entry movie.
- 24 life-size cast figures appear in the show.
- Faces on the cast figures were cast from real people.
- Total of 89,000 blades of grass appear throughout the show.
- An authentic 1914 Ford Model T is featured in the Lincoln Highway scene.
- An authentic 1927 Oldsmobile is showcased in the Lincoln Highway scene.
- An authentic 1961 Cadillac convertible is showcased in the drive-in theater scene.
- The Archway Monument is featured in the movie About Schmidt.
- "The Archway". RoadsideAmerica.com. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Joseph Brennan; Mike Konz (7 March 2013). "Kearney Arch files for bankruptcy protection". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "Kearney Arch files for bankruptcy". Lincoln Journal-Star. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "Great Platte River Road Memorial Archway". Kearney Hub. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
- "Judge approves debt plan for Kearney archway". Lincoln Journal-Star. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Joe Duggan; Mike Konz (19 September 2013). "Kearney Arch bankruptcy plan wins approval; attraction may remain open". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "County Kearney Give Archway Second Chance". Kearney Hub. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- Cassandra Hager (12 September 2013). "New Exit Boosts Business For Kearney Archway". KGIN. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "Kearney archway museum to close for 2 months". Associated Press. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- "Archway reset, revamped, ready to reopen". Kearney Hub staff. 24 February 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
- The Archway Monument on VisitNebraska.org
- Federal bankruptcy court documents via archive.org
- Review Essay in the Spring 2001 Great Plains Quarterly
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