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NEWS: Ark Encounter theme park set for Northern Kentucky


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I have a feeling that this place will succeed better than Wild West World, Save the Dippah, or Hard Rock Park. Why? THey have a market. Granted I doubt it is nearly as big as they think and WE are definitely NOT part of it, but nonetheless, there is a market.

 

They are up to $134,200 which is a ton of pegs, planks, and beams.

 

 

Personally, I prefer Flying Spaghetti Monster Land

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Taxpayers may be subsidizing this park. Thoughts?

 

From http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/gov-beshear-creation-ark-theme-park/:

 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that Ark Encounter LLC and Answers in Genesis (AiG), which is widely known for its Creation Museum, will begin construction of a Noah's Ark tourist attraction in his state.

 

And according to reports coming out of the state, Kentucky taxpayers may end up subsidizing the park.

 

The 160-acre religious theme park, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014 in northern Kentucky, will contain a "full-sized" replica of Noah's Ark in addition to a walled city, live animal shows, a children's interactive play area, a replica of the Tower of Babel, and a first-century Middle Eastern village.

 

"We are excited to join with the Ark Encounter group as it seeks to provide this unique, family-friendly tourist attraction to the Commonwealth," Gov. Beshear said. "Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and with the estimated 900 jobs this project will create, I am happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region."

 

A study conducted by the America's Research Group found the Ark Encounter may attract 1.6 million visitors in the first year and is expected to employ up to 900 staff.

 

"We are very pleased to be a part of this new project,” said Ken Ham, president and founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. "Answers in Genesis has been blessed to see the Creation Museum host over one million guests in three years. Based on our experience and success operating the large, state-of-the-art Creation Museum, our board believes the time is right to partner with the Ark Encounter in building a full-scale Noah's Ark."

 

Answers in Genesis, who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the whole park, is seeking performance-based tax incentives for the park.

 

"We have reviewed this from a legal standpoint and the application complies with our laws," Gov. Beshear said. "There is nothing even remotely unconstitutional about a for-profit organization coming in and investing $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky and bring tourism to Kentucky."

 

Answers in Genesis is best known for its Creation Museum, which opened in Petersburg, Kentucky in 2007. The museum teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and "brings the pages of the Bible to life" by showing "children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden's Rivers."

 

"It certainly sounds as if the mechanism for supporting a particular religious dogma would violate the establishment of religious prohibitions in the state and federal constitutions, but there may be slippery ways this could pass muster," Louisville attorney David Tachau told the Courier-Journal.

 

Under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, the state could subsidize up to 25 percent of the park, the Courier-Journal says.

 

"The people of Kentucky didn't elect me governor to debate religion," Gov. Beshear said. "They elected me governor to create jobs. That's what we're doing here, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

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^Not a big deal for a state or city to subsidize a project. Happens all the time. The project will create jobs in the area and the money that the workers make will probably be spent in the area. That money in turn will get spent again and again. If the park opens and it draws half the people they expect and each of those people spend $15 then that is 9 million pumped back into the Kentucky economy each year. Very little downside for the State if it is a viable project.

 

I think this project has a chance. It just doesn't cater to what we think is a theme park so there is not going to be much support form here.

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^Not a big deal for a state or city to subsidize a project.

 

It is if it violates the First Amendment. And this sounds suspiciously like just that.

 

This is a religious organization trying to build a venue to spread the teachings of their religion. Tax money has no proper place in such ventures.

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  • 5 months later...

Oh boy... it seems this project has been given the green light.. it does look rather interesting though...

 

http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/05/19/noahs-ark-theme-park-gets-final-go-ahead-in-kentucky/

 

Things are about to get Biblical in Kentucky. On Thursday, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave final approval to grant $40 million in tax rebates to build a biblical theme park called "The Ark Encounter."

 

 

The controversial museum, backed in part by Mike Zovath, a co-founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry which previously built Kentucky's 70,00 square-foot Creation Museum, got the funding after months of back and forth over the legitimacy of a religious attraction being funded by a state government.

 

No matter, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant more than $40 million in tax rebates for the project, which is scheduled to cost $172 million (visitors to the Ark's website see a "donate here" tab).

 

 

Zovath told the Associated Press: "This was the last real hurdle for us as far as I'm concerned." Zovath's purpose, he claims, is to dispel doubts about the biblical event.

 

The project will include a replica of the Tower of Babel, lecture halls, shops, theaters and, of course, a petting zoo (will there be 2 of every animal?) and live shows. ABC News reported in December, when plans were first announced, that the ark will be taller than a 3-story building, the deck longer than 35 tennis courts, and would be big enough to fit 600 train cars inside.

 

 

A consultant who reviewed the proposal for the state's Tourism board said that the project will probably draw 1.4 million visitors per year. That's what Governor Steve Beshear is aiming for, at least. He hopes the park will employ some 600 to 700 people and will bring in $250 million in the first year alone. For those who are counting, the Creation Museum has drawn more than 1 million visitors since it opened over 3 years ago.

 

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State have something else to say. The company's executive director, Barry W. Lynn, told the AP that Kentucky "should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint. Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help." He added: "This misguided project deserves to sink." (Get it?)

 

Zovath's response: "The more they try to paint us in a bad light, the more opportunities we have to explain the project."

 

Topography Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUyVva4I4D4

 

Exodus Ride Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8enuyjzRKlY

 

This ride actually looks rather interesting... I wonder what comany would do this ride? Maybe SallyCorp?

 

Anyway, is there anything else that could make this project more, I dunno, unfeasable?

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A consultant who reviewed the proposal for the state's Tourism board said that the project will probably draw 1.4 million visitors per year. That's what Governor Steve Beshear is aiming for, at least.

Now this is the part that i'm worried about. Wasn't Hard Rock Park supposed to bring in millions of people? Good luck to them, but I just don't see things working out.

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Oh boy... it seems this project has been given the green light.. it does look rather interesting though...

 

http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/05/19/noahs-ark-theme-park-gets-final-go-ahead-in-kentucky/

 

Things are about to get Biblical in Kentucky. On Thursday, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave final approval to grant $40 million in tax rebates to build a biblical theme park called "The Ark Encounter."

 

 

The controversial museum, backed in part by Mike Zovath, a co-founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry which previously built Kentucky's 70,00 square-foot Creation Museum, got the funding after months of back and forth over the legitimacy of a religious attraction being funded by a state government.

 

No matter, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant more than $40 million in tax rebates for the project, which is scheduled to cost $172 million (visitors to the Ark's website see a "donate here" tab).

 

 

Zovath told the Associated Press: "This was the last real hurdle for us as far as I'm concerned." Zovath's purpose, he claims, is to dispel doubts about the biblical event.

 

The project will include a replica of the Tower of Babel, lecture halls, shops, theaters and, of course, a petting zoo (will there be 2 of every animal?) and live shows. ABC News reported in December, when plans were first announced, that the ark will be taller than a 3-story building, the deck longer than 35 tennis courts, and would be big enough to fit 600 train cars inside.

 

 

A consultant who reviewed the proposal for the state's Tourism board said that the project will probably draw 1.4 million visitors per year. That's what Governor Steve Beshear is aiming for, at least. He hopes the park will employ some 600 to 700 people and will bring in $250 million in the first year alone. For those who are counting, the Creation Museum has drawn more than 1 million visitors since it opened over 3 years ago.

 

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State have something else to say. The company's executive director, Barry W. Lynn, told the AP that Kentucky "should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint. Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help." He added: "This misguided project deserves to sink." (Get it?)

 

Zovath's response: "The more they try to paint us in a bad light, the more opportunities we have to explain the project."

 

Topography Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUyVva4I4D4

 

Exodus Ride Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8enuyjzRKlY

 

This ride actually looks rather interesting... I wonder what comany would do this ride? Maybe SallyCorp?

 

Anyway, is there anything else that could make this project more, I dunno, unfeasable?

 

Maybe a Vekoma SLC?

 

Seriously though, this makes Hard Rock Park seem better. I mean, at least it operated for two seasons, albit under a different name the second, but at least it lasted TWO seasons. But, it still failed cause they didn't attract a million visitors in both seasons. I doubt this park could get at least half of the expected visitors, unless the dark ride WAS a Sally ride. Even then, I don't expect a million visitors to this park.

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To be honest, this really is starting to look a little more interesting the more I hear about it. It looks like something I might actually drive up to see myself one day. Of course, it isn't going to be an amusement park so why treat it like one. This is just an exorbitant outdoor/indoor museum about the history of religion and Noah... and a petting zoo .

 

For the millions that should flood the gates of this place, I think that is a little much. When it opens, they'll be lucky to get half a million imo. Maybe if it becomes popular and it's close to some other places like an airport, bunches of hotels, restaurants, (a major city), etc., then it just might get a lot of people.

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  • 8 months later...

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2012/02/16/ark-encounter-buys-last-piece-of-land.html

 

Developers of the Noah’s Ark-themed attraction in Grant County on Thursday closed on the last and largest piece of land for their planned development, according to a news release.

 

Ark Encounter LLC is building the new theme park on an 800-acre site in Williamstown, Ky., about 40 minutes south of downtown Cincinnati. Under the direction of Answers in Genesis, the organization responsible for the development of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., a full scale replica of Noah’s Ark will be built as the featured attraction of Ark Encounter. Developers believe the attraction will draw more than a million people in its first year.

 

Engineering and architectural work on the Ark structure will allow for “significantly greater guest capacity inside the Ark than originally anticipated,” the release said. “This finding has eliminated the need to build additional biblical attractions simultaneously to accommodate the projected crowds.” As a result, Ark Encounter will be built in multiple phases over many years, with the Ark and other supporting elements opening during the first phase, according to the release.

 

“This approach will reduce the initial construction period and funding requirements. It will also allow the utility infrastructure to be able to grow with the Ark Encounter’s expansions at a reasonable pace,” the release said. “Phased-in construction is also a safe way to proceed in a difficult economy. Even then, over $5 million in donations have already been received for the building of the Ark itself. In addition to that milestone, many more millions of dollars in memberships and private funding have been raised or committed for the construction of the other attractions surrounding the Ark, the centerpiece of the project.”

 

Michael Zovath, senior vice president of Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter, said in the release that he was “elated to cross two milestones this week in the Ark’s progress.” Zovath, who was in charge of building Answers in Genesis’s Creation Museum, noted that “due to the rolling hills and ravines of this scenic property, about 800 acres are needed in order to get at least 160 usable acres — plus create a necessary buffer around the Ark Encounter attraction. It has taken considerable, but necessary, time to close on all the different parcels, and there have been environmental studies that took time to perform on parts of the land, but all the needed acreage has been purchased.”

 

The Creation Museum draws more than 300,000 visitors a year, and Answers in Genesis is planning for larger crowds at the museum complex 40 miles from the Ark site to handle even larger crowds once the Ark Encounter opens, according to the release. A 1,000-seat auditorium has been finished along with a new observatory with high-power telescopes.

 

Donations to Answers in Genesis for the Ark structure itself are just one aspect of the Ark Encounter funding. The major part of the funding is coming through private funding from the Ark Encounter, LLC, a Missouri limited liability company, which will own the attraction. Through a wholly owned subsidiary, Answers in Genesis is the managing member of the LLC and is raising a portion of the funding to build the Ark component. “The museum’s attendance has exceeded projections since it opened in May 2007, and it has been a major economic asset to the region. Moreover, with an Ark coming to the region, it is anticipated the Creation Museum’s best days for attendance are ahead of it," said Mark Looy, co-founder and chief communications officer. Answers in Genesis is a biblical ministry, which conducts about 300 teaching meetings each year, publishes the family magazine “Answers” and produces the “Answers” radio program heard on more than 500 stations in the U.S.

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  • 1 month later...

http://www.kentucky.com/2012/03/28/2130070/group-questions-2-million-for.html

 

A nonprofit group that advocates for the separation of church and state raised questions Wednesday about the legislature's plan to spend $2 million on road improvements near the proposed Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington D.C. non-profit, is protesting the legislature's decision to include $2 million for improvements to KY 36, a project included in road budgets proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear and approved by the House and Senate. The $2 million would be used to purchase right-of-way and pre-construction work on an interchange with I-75.

 

Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said the Kentucky Constitution bans the use of taxpayer dollars to support religion. Section 5 of the Constitution says taxpayers may not be forced to "contribute to the erection or maintenance" of any place of worship.

 

Chuck Wolfe, a spokesman for the Transportation Cabinet, said the state is paying for improvements to the interchange because there are concerns about increased traffic. "The Transportation Cabinet's interest in enlarging the interchange is to prevent traffic from backing up onto I-75, which would be a significant hazard," Wolfe said. "The reason for great increases in traffic is immaterial."

 

Plans for opening Ark Encounter, a biblical-themed park, have repeatedly been delayed because of problems with fund-raising. Plans for the Ark Encounter include a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark, a Tower of Babel, petting zoos and an assortment of biblical-themed exhibits.

 

Mike Zovath, senior vice president of Answers in Genesis, the group building Ark Encounter, said fund-raising was going more slowly than expected. He said the group had raised about half of the money needed to break ground at the end of the year. "The economy has slowed down," Zovath said. "It could break any time or take five to six months." The group has purchased 800 acres in Grant County. Phase One of the project is expected to cost about $73 million. Zovath said he still hopes to break ground at the end of 2012 and open in May 2014.

 

Wolfe said the road project is not slated to begin until 2015, "which allows plenty of time to alter the scope of the project if there are changes in traffic projections," Wolfe said.

 

The state agreed in May to give the park tax credits, but those credits — designed for tourism projects — do not kick in unless the park is built and generates enough sales taxes to earn the credits.

 

The park has been criticized by late-night talk show hosts and those who say the state should not give tax breaks to a business that espouses a particular religious view. Beshear has defended the tax incentives, saying the state cannot deny the application on religious grounds.

 

The park could generate as many as 600 to 700 new jobs, according to a consultant's report.

 

Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United, said spending $2 million to improve a road leading to a biblical-themed park was different than granting tax credits. "This is direct funding rather than indirect funding," Conn said. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the $2 million appropriation "is always a possibility," Conn said. "We always hope that common sense will prevail and that the legislature and the governor won't do this."

 

The House and Senate have approved different versions of the two-year road plan. Leaders from both chambers have yet to begin negotiations on a final road budget.

101201creationPA0222.2.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate_79.jpg.670e176c71e7ff507a9f0898bf48f083.jpg

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  • 7 months later...

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20121120/NEWS06/311200035/A-full-size-Noah-s-Ark-will-be-built-in-Kentucky-biblical-park?odyssey=tab%7cmostpopular%7ctext%7cASHLANDCITY

 

Mike Zovath doesn’t think it’s going to rain for 40 days and 40 nights anytime soon. But like Noah in the Old Testament, he still plans to build an ark. And it’s to be big. Five hundred and fifty feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. “It’s really only been done once before,” he said. “We are scratching our heads to figure out how Noah did it.” Zovath, vice president of Answers in Genesis, a Hebron, Ky.-based Christian nonprofit, is in charge of the $50 million Ark Encounter project. He says he’s having the time of his life with it.

 

The ark is the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park 40 miles south of Cincinnati that organizers hope will draw more than a million visitors a year from Bible Belt states including Tennessee.

 

It’s also a sign of the enduring interest in the story of the ark. A blockbuster film about Noah, starring Russell Crowe, is in production for a 2014 release, and its replica of the ark was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A new book from geologist David Montgomery says that the story of the ark was likely based on a smaller regional flood in the Middle East.

 

Most of the current work on the ark is being done in a warehouse about six miles from the Creation Museum. Design drawings line the lobby, showing the ark along with other park attractions, such as the Tower of Babel and a 10 Plagues ride. On a table by the window is a scale model of the park’s 800 acres.

 

There’s also a mockup of one of the 144 bays, or sections, of the ark. Standing about 18 feet tall, it gives the first glimpse of the size of the project. A similar section is on display outside the Creation Museum. Zovath says the finished ark will be more than twice the size of the warehouse.

 

“Just being in this huge ship that is all wood will be dramatic by itself,” he said. “I think people will be awestruck.”

 

'To show the world'

 

Answers in Genesis promotes a strict version of creationism that teaches that the world is about 6,000 years old and was made by God in six days. That view is on display at the Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 and has drawn more than a million and a half visitors.

 

But the $27 million museum attracts a relatively small group of people — either true believers or critics of creationism. Zovath and other organizers of the Ark Encounter hope it will draw a bigger audience.

 

“There’s a lot of speculation about the ark. Could Noah have built it? How could Noah have gotten all the animals on it?” said Patrick Marsh, chief designer for the ark. “We want to build something to show the world that it can be done and then to present the message of God’s salvation.”

 

Both sides intrigued

 

The idea of an ark intrigues Creation Museum fans and skeptics alike.

 

The Rev. Peggy Haywood of Nashville United Methodist Church in Nashville, Ind., visited recently for the second time. She said she’d come back to see an ark. “Sometimes we read things in the Bible and it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it because it seems so long ago and it seems so impossible,” Haywood said. “If you literally see it, it’s not so impossible.”

 

Tim Woodford, a missionary in Hermosillo, Mexico, stopped by with his wife and six kids on the way back from visiting relatives in Canada. When most people think of the ark, he said, they think of a cute little boat with smiling animal faces sticking out of it. “It was really big enough to hold every species and more, and lots of room for those who wanted to go,” he said.

 

Blogger and biology professor Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers, a frequent critic of the Creation Museum, said the ark might tempt him into making a trip to see it. Although he doesn’t believe the story, a giant wooden boat would be fun to see, said Myers, who was in Nashville in October for a skeptics convention.

 

Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics and director of the Nashville campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes the story of Noah is literally true. He says he’d make the trip to Kentucky to see the ark.

 

Nancy Anderson French, a Christian writer and blogger from Columbia, Tenn., has her doubts. Her kids have visited the Creation Museum on a school trip, but she does not embrace the six-day view of creationism that the museum promotes. Still, French said, if she were driving by the ark on the highway, she might stop. “It would be cool,” she said.

 

Seen as a metaphor

 

Coppenger sees great theology in the story of Noah. It shows that God will punish people who do evil but show mercy to those who ask him for help. He said people have to decide whether they want to believe the Bible or the theories of modern scientists about whether the story of Noah literally happened.

 

But Dave Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington and author of “The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood,” said science and faith don’t have to conflict.

 

Scientists such as Nicolas Steno, a 17th-century Catholic bishop who helped invent modern geology, set out to prove that the story of Noah was literally true, Montgomery said. When they found that the rocks told a different story, they began to interpret stories like Noah more metaphorically. “They had faith God did not create a deceptive world,” he said.

 

The story of Noah’s ark is probably based on a major ancient flood in Mesopotamia, he said. People thought the flood covered the whole world, he said, because they didn’t know how big the world really is. “People weren’t just making up things to tell their kids. They were telling stories about ancient disasters,” he said. “Noah is the earliest disaster epic.”

 

Realism is goal

 

The debate over whether the story is true will likely continue long after the Ark Encounter project is done.

 

Zovath has his hands filled now with fundraising and trying to figure out how the ark really worked.

 

The Bible gives few details, other than the size: 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. Researchers for the ark project found that about 12 different sizes of cubits were used in ancient times and decided to use one that’s 20.1 inches long. The Bible also says that Noah took two of every kind of animal and seven pairs of some kinds. Scientists with ties to the museum think that may mean somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 pairs.

 

Zovath said it took 10 years to build the Creation Museum, where he was project manager, and he hopes it won’t take that long to build the ark, which has been in development since 2010. The Answers in Genesis website estimates that it took Noah more than 50 years to build the ark.

 

The project will be a partnership of Answers in Genesis and a private, for-profit company called Ark Encounter LLC. Once completed, the project will get some state money in the form of sales tax breaks.

 

The ark itself will cost about $50 million, and organizers say they have raised about $24 million in donations and investments for the project.

 

The next goal is to raise an additional $3 million in donations by the end of the year. People can donate $100 to pay for a peg, $1,000 for a plank or $5,000 for a beam.

 

The best part of the job is trying to make the ark as realistic as possible, Zovath said. Original designs would have floated, he said, but the architects had to add elevators, stairs and other amenities, including a rooftop restaurant, to make it a working tourist attraction.

 

Right now he’s trying to figure out how many animals would have lived on the ark and what to do with all the poop. The best guess for now is using some for fertilizer and dumping some overboard with a conveyor belt.

 

“We think Noah might have done just like we are doing,” he said. “You get to a problem and you figure out what to do.”

bilde.thumb.jpeg.586beb24944f4bbab68b5cd26c5d0dce.jpeg

Mike Zovath, who is in charge of Ark Encounter, a $50 million life-size replica of Noah's Ark, stands in a mock-up of one of the 144 sections, or 'bays,' of the ark. / Larry McCormack / The Tennessean

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From a business point of view, I just don't see how this will succeed. It doesn't look like it has a lot of return potential. People will flock to it once but there is nothing to draw them back. Only the Ark is being built in the first phase with the rest of the park to be built in later phases.

 

I guess the one thing they have going for them is that they are not racking up debt and they are buying wood and keeping some people employed building it. Kind of like a mini economic stimulus project.

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This has a lot of potential. They could have the "Great Flood" wave pool as part of the attractions.

 

I hope they will have dinosaur rides. That would be much more interesting than Cedar Fair's Dinosaurs Alive exhibit. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks had a skit about this.

 

If they want to present all sides, I hope their cafeteria includes ramen noodles so followers of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism can feel welcome.

jesus-dinosaur.jpg.192db51621673949fc715068c6059127.jpg

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I really don't think the entire complex is worth building. The Creation Museum already has an ark display inside - they could have built the ark right alongside the museum and used the former ark space for another display.

 

Regardless of what you believe, the Creation Museum is very well-designed and well-executed.

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This has a lot of potential. They could have the "Great Flood" wave pool as part of the attractions.

 

I hope they will have dinosaur rides. That would be much more interesting than Cedar Fair's Dinosaurs Alive exhibit. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks had a skit about this.

 

If they want to present all sides, I hope their cafeteria includes ramen noodles so followers of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism can feel welcome.

 

I could see myself backing all of these ideas!

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  • 1 year later...

http://www.kentucky.com/2013/11/27/2957538/city-seeks-to-jump-start-stalled.html

 

Just in case anyone is following.

 

I don't remember hearing about the Ark being built by Amish craftsmen. I only recently heard about the Amish in Kentucky the "Amish Mafia" on TV.

 

City seeks to jump-start stalled Ark Encounter park with $62 million 'junk' bond offering

By Linda B. Blackford

lblackford@herald-leader.comNovember 27, 2013

 

A planned amusement park in Grant County featuring a life-size Noah's Ark is two years and millions of dollars behind schedule, but now it's getting more civic help: a $62 million bond issue being offered by the city of Williamstown.

 

The city, which has already granted the project a 75 percent break in property taxes over 30 years, won't have to repay the bonds, according to the bond-offering documents. That's good, experts say, because the bonds are not rated, which makes them speculative, or "junk" bonds, said Gene Gard of Dupree Mutual Funds in Lexington.

 

The taxable bonds are backed by future revenues from the project, which organizers believe will attract more than 1 million visitors in the first year.

 

The offering is not something that would be considered for purchase by a firm like Dupree, Gard said, because of the risk.

 

"It might be people who are looking to allocate some money to a more speculative issue, or it might be people who would really like to see this project built," he said. "Or you could look at it almost as a loan to a family member and not be as concerned about being paid back."

 

If the park can't produce enough revenue, the people who buy the bonds will lose their money, but it shouldn't have any lasting effect on Williamstown.

 

"They're not on the hook for the bonds, so it wouldn't affect their actual credit rating," Gard said.

 

Mayor Rick Skinner did not return repeated calls for comment about the bond issue, but in past news reports he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the project which he believes will bring as many as 400 jobs to Grant County. Other city council members referred all requests for comment to Skinner.

 

While there appears to be little risk for Williamstown, there's more for investors. The preliminary bond offering documents for the Ark Encounter project list 39 risks for those who buy the bonds, from animals getting sick to possible lawsuits over the constitutionality of a religious project receiving federal and state money.

 

Still, Ark Encounter officials think the bonds will be a success.

 

"We are currently in the early days of the marketing period with respect to the bonds and are thus far pleased with the reception they have received in the market," said Mark Looy, chief communication officer for Answers in Genesis, the ministry based in Northern Kentucky that built the Creation Museum in Petersburg and is now building the Ark Encounter. Looy said the bond closing will be Dec. 19.

 

As an added inducement, anyone who buys $100,000 or more of the bonds will receive a lifetime boarding pass to the Ark Encounter, which includes free admission to the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, with discounts on food and merchandise.

 

Before the bond offer, the Ark Encounter had raised $14 million out of $73 million needed for the first phase of construction. The project's total cost has been estimated at about $150 million.

 

Fundraising has been slow because of the recession, said Mike Zovath, who is heading up the project for Answers In Genesis. Originally, the park was scheduled to be finished by 2014. Now organizers think they'll start construction in the spring.

 

"The recession has affected projects all over the country," Zovath said. "We've still raised close to $15 million in private donations."

 

Zovath said site work for the project is finished and the design work is 85 percent complete.

 

The 800-acre amusement park is supposed to feature a life-size Noah's Ark built by Amish craftsmen, a walled city, a zoo featuring Noah's animals, a Ten Plagues Ride, a Tower of Babel, a first-century village, an aviary and a children's area.

 

An initial feasibility report, written by Britt Beemer, a friend of Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham, predicted the Ark Encounter would attract more than 1.2 million visitors in its first year. However, the bond offering documents note that "there is no assurance that the Borrower will be able to successfully market its themed attraction ... in numbers that provide significant, consistent cash flow."

 

Attendance at the Creation Museum has declined each year since it opened in 2007, from 394,185 that year to 236,583 in 2012, according to the bond documents.

 

The documents also note that state economic incentives for the project could be challenged by a group concerned about the separation of church and state. The state of Kentucky has promised up to $43 million in tourism tax credits. That agreement requires the park to begin generating revenue from sales in 2014. If that doesn't happen, Answers in Genesis would have to reapply for the incentive and produce a new feasibility report.

 

The state also agreed to an $11 million interchange upgrade at the KY-36 Williamstown exit off I-75; about $200,000 has been spent on design so far, according to Transportation Department officials.

 

The city of Williamstown agreed to give the project a property tax discount of 75 percent over the next 30 years, and the Grant County Industrial Development Authority gave them almost $200,000 to keep the project located there, along with 100 acres of reduced-price land.

 

Alex Luchenitser, legal counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., said his group has been following the Ark Encounter project closely, but has not made any legal moves because it's not clear the project will happen.

 

"We're not interested in filing a lawsuit where you might not need one in the first place," he said. "But we think it raises serious constitutional issues, both on the federal church-state requirement and under the Kentucky Constitution," which has language prohibiting government aid to religious institutions.

 

That government aid troubles others as well.

 

Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, said he first became interested in the Ark Encounter project because he was concerned about the science that would be presented.

 

"The government has supposedly been trying to improve Kentucky's image and education level, but at the same time they're supporting a project that says all of modern science is a big lie," he said. "They claim that Noah led dinosaurs on the Ark, but that's just nonsense, there's no other way to describe it."

 

In a radio ad posted on YouTube titled "What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?" Ken Ham disputes the fossil record of dinosaurs.

 

"Evolution has used dinosaurs more than almost anything else to indoctrinate children into millions of years of evolutionary ideas," Ham says. "But the Bible gives a different history. God tells us he created all land animals the same day he created man about 6,000 years ago and what's more there were even dinosaurs on Noah's Ark because God told Noah to take pairs of every kind of land animal. You see, dinosaurs are no mystery at all if you accept the Bible's account of creation."

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Maybe it is just me, but I feel like if a project hasn't been able to raise money on its own, it shouldn't get a bond of any kind from the city. I can't foresee this project being a success and I'd hate to see the city of Williamstown dragged down through the mess this will likely continue to descend into as time goes on.

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I don't see this going anywhere either. There's a life-sized Noah's Ark being built in Frostburg, Maryland, and it's literally been under construction since the late 1970's. The pastor responsible STILL believes it will be open. This may shed a light on the Kentucky ark. The news article about Frostburg's if anyone's interested: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20649021

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A planned amusement park in Grant County featuring a life-size Noah's Ark is two years and millions of dollars behind schedule

Oh yea, that's some great project management right there. I'm not sure how this idea is even staying afloat. Even if it is somehow built though, I can't imagine a flood of people would flock to it.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Maybe it is just me, but I feel like if a project hasn't been able to raise money on its own, it shouldn't get a bond of any kind from the city. I can't foresee this project being a success and I'd hate to see the city of Williamstown dragged down through the mess this will likely continue to descend into as time goes on.

 

If you read the article it states that the city of Williamstown is not on the hook for the bonds. No risk for the city, just to the investors.

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