Christy became the Great Passion Play’s president and CEO in January, but he is serving without pay along with the chief administrator as a cost-saving measure.
The partners had to raise an additional $100,000 to finance the 2013 season, and they reached their goal by May with the help of individual donors and corporate sponsors. They wove more miracles and other scenes from Jesus’ life into the script of the play, boosting its audience appeal.
In another cost-saving move, the partners cut staff and replaced paid workers with volunteers. They also relied on hundreds of volunteers to paint, repair and upgrade the facilities.
Midway through the season, the partners have covered their bills, made all the bank payments and paid off the attraction’s back taxes, Christy said. He said attendance has grown by 15 percent to 20 percent, and costs have dropped by about 30 percent.
Christy said his efforts to restore the Great Passion Play’s financial health encountered little resistance from people familiar with the attraction.
“The people that are there — they just want the Passion Play to succeed, and it cannot succeed if it’s paying out more than it’s bringing in,” he said. “And they know that. They just never had anyone lay it all out for them and show them what the real scenario was.”
Butler, the assistant executive director, said the Gospel Station Network was a source of inspiration for attraction officials.
“They just really stepped up and infused our organization with a lot of strength,” he said.
Preparing for the future
With the current season under way, the partners are already looking toward the future. They are making plans to ensure the attraction’s financial stability by reaching out to corporate sponsors and other donors.
Other plans include building a petting park stocked with small animals, installing a children’s play area and expanding the Eastern Gate Marketplace.