The electronic billboard that once displayed Scripture verses along Interstate 84 went dark three-and-a-half years ago.
Since then, Highway Evangelism, the nonprofit group that operated the sign, has asked for donations to pay for a replacement. But the cost was more than $100,000 — a high bar for a religious group that had never before asked for donations.
Still, a new sign appears to be in the works. Ray Veloz, owner of the land where the sign is located, said he is buying a new one that will display Bible verses in LED lighting “like the ones in Vegas.” Veloz wouldn’t say how much he paid.
“I don't do it for notoriety,” he said. “I do it to put the word of God out there.”
Veloz said he’s already put down half the new sign’s cost and will pay the remainder when the sign arrives. He hopes that will be in the next couple of weeks.
Highway Evangelism vice president Ron Vieselmeyer offered to raise money to defray the new billboard’s cost, but Veloz said that wasn’t necessary. He said he may sell a small amount of advertisement space on the new sign.
A contractor named Walter Opp gave Highway Evangelism a 99-year, $1-per-year lease to put the sign on land he owned between the Franklin and Garrity interchanges. Veloz honored the lease when he bought the land.
The original billboard was built in 1984 and didn’t have an electronic reader. Around 2000, Opp paid more than $150,000 for a new, electronic replacement. Opp died in 2003.
Highway Evangelism operates two other signs in Coeur d’Alene. Veloz said the group has talked about holding a dedication ceremony when the new sign is turned on.