The on-again, off-again operations in recent years at the historic Shepherd of the Hills attraction in Branson has new owners that plan to keep it running.
Shepherd of the Hills’ officials announced in May it would not perform its outdoor theater show – the longest running of its kind in the country – and the property was up for sale. After suitors, including College of the Ozarks, considered acquisition offers, two businessmen from Springfield stepped forward this month as the new owners.
Jeff Johnson, a former commercial lender at Simmons Bank, partnered with Steve Faria, whose family owns and operates two Branson resorts, to buy Shepherd of the Hills in late June for an undisclosed sum. Media reports this year have indicated Shepherd of the Hills, 5586 W. Highway 76, was in a bank foreclosure.
“When I heard that The Shepherd of the Hills was for sale, I was concerned,” Johnson said in a news release detailing the new ownership’s plans. “I thought, if I could figure out how to be involved in buying and saving it, it would be my life’s dream come true. I’ve been a banker for 20 years in Springfield and I turned to my best customer, Steve Faria, for help. We are working on our vision for what can happen here, and I think everyone will be very happy about what’s in store for The Shepherd of the Hills.”
The reopening is tonight with a showing of the outdoor theater at 8:30 p.m. to begin the 58th season, said Trey Pelz of Clear Entertainment and Marketing Group LLC, which was hired to handle the marketing and rebranding components.
Johnson is working full time at Shepherd of the Hills, Pelz said, and Faria has experiences running Watermill Cove Resort and the Chalets on Table Rock Lake.
For starters, the new owners are introducing the Homestead Adventure Park with ATV off-road, self-guided trail tours, according to the release. Later this summer, horseback riding is slated, along with a return of the Shepherd Super Summer Cruise car show in August and the Trail of Lights in November for the Christmas season.
Plans include continuing the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider, with additional zip lines coming, the release said, as well as a rock climbing wall on Inspiration Tower, train rides, a petting zoo, mini-golf course and Aunt Mollie’s restaurant in 2018.
Faria got into the resort business by buying a property with four cabins that he turned into Chalets on Table Rock Lake with another nine chalets of five or six bedrooms, eight villas and a swimming pool, according to WaterMillCove.com. The 11-acre resort in Lampe, near Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, also has a 20-slip boat dock.
Faria Resorts later purchased Watermill Cove on Indian Point, 2 miles from Silver Dollar City.
“We’re working on a new website, logo and full new branding that incorporates the historical elements and the heritage, but also the new things they’re working on,” marketer Pelz said.
The new branding and elements are expected to roll out by year’s end, and Pelz said the new attractions at Shepherd of the Hills would develop during the off-season.
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The move would come with a new property tax levied on residents of regional school districts.
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