NORFOLK, Neb. -- A northeast Nebraska entertainment center appears to be in jeopardy.

Americarts announced Tuesday that it is no longer in a purchase agreement with the owners of the Livestock Sales Barn property.

The Americarts founders said they were grateful to have had the opportunity to try to repurpose the Livestock Sales Barn land.

“The property owners have been wonderful to work with; they’ve been very supportive of our efforts to revitalize this historic part of Norfolk,” said Stephanie Goodrich, co-founder of Americarts. “We’ve heard so many heartfelt stories about how this place brought together families—a sentiment that aligns with the mission of Americarts.”

Americarts representatives signed a purchase agreement back in July 2022 with the owners of Nebraska Livestock Sales, LLC of Norfolk for the property, which is located at 1601 South 1st Street.

For the last four months, the Americarts founders worked closely with various private investors and investment groups to try and secure the funding for the land, which would allow for phase 2 of the project to begin, according to a press release issued by the company.

“We felt confident that we had met the right investor. We negotiated the structure of a mutually beneficial agreement to share the land,” Goodrich said. “Securing the land would allow us to start the eligibility process for a Business and Industry Loan, which can take at least 120 days to complete. Unfortunately, the day before our purchase agreement deadline, we received a message saying they were no longer interested. Of course, we are disappointed, but we are also excited to see what other commercial properties are available in Norfolk.”

Business and Industry (B&I) loans aim to improve, develop, or finance new or existing businesses that will improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. Unlike Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, B&I loans can be used for larger projects, up to $25 million in size. These types of loans require a significant amount of work to obtain, but the Americarts founders said they are ready for that challenge.

“We have met with a lot of people this year,” said Robert Johnson, President of Americarts. “Many people have told us that a state-of-the-art entertainment center with an emphasis on education and inclusion for people with disabilities won’t work in Norfolk. They say that Norfolk is too small of a town. Three investors said that if we selected a different city with more people such as Omaha or Grand Island, they would be on board. But I grew up in Madison and raised my kids in Norfolk. I know that Americarts will do fantastic here. I also know that the hardworking people of Norfolk and the surrounding towns deserve an amazing place, available year-round, to go and celebrate birthdays, gather with friends, and have fun with their families. A place where there is something for everyone—that includes everyone.”

The founders of Americarts said they will try for at least one more year to create the first location in Norfolk before considering other cities. They said they are asking those who purchased a Founder’s Circle Membership wait out the coming year, noting that refunds can be issued if Americarts is unable to open in Norfolk.