Article Published: Sep. 20, 2012 | Modified: Sep. 20, 2012
Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham said Sept. 14 that the recent purchase of the Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock was “the steal of the century,” and the Christian relief organization is anticipating closing this week.
The Mariam and Robert Hayes Center was auctioned at the courthouse Aug. 21 after years of attempts at self-sufficiency failed. Wells Fargo bank was the sole bidder that day at $1.422 million.
Graham said he returned from Alaska and read about the auction in the Watauga Democrat.
“I thought, ‘I wish I had been here,’ because I thought we could have used this building,” Graham said.
Realizing that he had two days left to submit an upset bid, Graham decided to move forward, and Samaritan’s Purse submitted an offer of $1,493,100 on Aug. 30.
No other upset bids were filed, and Samaritan’s Purse confirmed Friday that the bid had been accepted.
Graham said the organization has enough funding for the closing and that it believes it has lined up a handful of donors willing to cover the purchase price.
The evangelism and relief organization plans to use the space for training, conferences and meetings.
“Our organization had a staff of less than a dozen when it began in the High Country more than 30 years ago,” Samaritan’s Purse spokeswoman Karina Petersen said in a statement. “Now we have nearly 500 employees based at our international headquarters in Boone and over 2,000 more across the United States and around the world.”
Graham said getting the building — constructed at a cost of almost $10 million — for such a low price made it an outstanding value.
“It’s more building than I actually need, but I would rather have it that way,” he said. “This is something that will allow us to grow into it.”
Graham said he expects to close on the property this week, possibly Wednesday.
After that, the organization will need about four to six weeks before it starts using the space, he said.
Graham said the entire building needs to be cleaned, and a few areas will be painted or refurbished. Samaritan’s Purse won’t need all of the items inside, so those will be removed, he said.
Samaritan’s Purse also aims to make the space available to churches and other Christian organizations.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Samaritan’s Purse will be limited in how it can use the building, he said. Offering the venue as a space for a stage company or drama production “would not fit within our focus as an organization,” Graham said.
As a nonprofit, Samaritan’s Purse also will likely qualify for property tax exemption. But Graham said he believes the town of Blowing Rock will receive an economic boost from the visitors that arrive for conferences and training there.
Kim Rogers of Jenkins Realtors, the appointed trustee of the property, said she is thankful to see the building being used again.
“To sit there and watch it age just before our eyes is awful,” she said.
Aside from the worldly benefits, Graham said he believes the building will serve a higher purpose. During their first walk-through recently, he and other Samaritan’s Purse leaders stopped to pray in the space, he said.
“We prayed that God would take the building and He would use it, and it would be used for His glory and to advance His kingdom,” Graham said.