By Gina Martinez
Big Apple Circus has been saved and will continue its mission of helping disabled children.
The circus was bought at a bankruptcy auction Feb. 7 for $1.3 million by Big Top Works, an affiliate of the Florida-based investment firm Compass Partners LLC, and will
“Our choice was based on Compass Partners offering the highest bid and making a compelling case to revive the circus performances consistent with the original Big Apple Circus mission and values: serving family audiences in New York City and on tour, sensitive to accessibility and to differently abled audiences,” Big Apple said in a statement.
The circus, which has been an annual visitor to Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, is set to return this fall for the 2017-18 season and will announce the details of its upcoming season in the spring.
The circus initially ran into financial trouble in 2008 following the national recession. The circus relied on Wall Street as a benefactor, providing up to $1 million a year in funds for annual corporate entertainment, which helped to keep the circus going. Events like Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Atlanta ice storm in 2014 kept people from attending shows, which reduced ticket sales and enlarged Big Apple’s deficit.
Last summer Big Apple turned to an online campaign to raise some money with donations ranging up to $50,000, and the Big Apple principals also hoped that an emergency fund-raiser would get the attention of big donors. To their surprise, no one stepped up. Big Apple raised only $900,000, far short of its $2 million goal, which would have allowed the circus to continue staging its shows in New York City.
After having to cancel its 2016-2017 season, the Big Apple Circus filed for bankruptcy in November.
The organization decided to file under Chapter 11 for protection from its creditors. At the time the circus said it intended to continue operating some of its community programs, which would be transferred to other non-profit organizations and sell some of its assets. The circus hoped to restart the one-ring show with new financial support or through the sale of the circus to an interested buyer. The organization listed $8.3 million in debts and $3.8 million in liabilities in its bankruptcy filing.
The beloved non-profit circus focuses its efforts on helping young children through entertainment since 1977 with performances in Cunningham Park and Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
Big Apple was founded by jugglers Paul Binder and Michael Christensen, who brought their act from England to the United States. They started the non-profit as a mission to entertain and improve the lives of millions. Throughout the years Big Apple performances presented acrobats, clowns and animal acts that featured dogs and horses instead of the wild tigers and elephants found in most circuses, including Ringling Brothers, which recently announced it would close in May.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart