Why the Ark Encounter makes me sad.

So last Thursday the Ark Encounter opened in Kentucky. Ken Ham’s $100 million Noah’s ark “theme park” that is the center for so much hoopla. Protestors showed up for the grand opening and the news media finally got the coverage that it needed for all the crooked tax breaks.

But I’m not today writing about the audacity of Ken Ham building an homage to a myth that he wants to promote as fact. He has his first amendment right to say what he wants and to spend his money to promote his foolishness. I can’t stop him and I wouldn’t want to. What makes me saddest is the tax breaks and spending that surrounds this. But not in the way most secularists have been upset.

A while back in order to get those tax breaks and bonds Ham published projections about his attendance at the Ark Encounter. He projected that 2.2 million people would be drawn to the theme park in it’s peak year. And the state was banking on this. It was by this type of basis that the Ark was considered a legitimate tourist attraction and was granted those tax incentives.

And it wasn’t just the tax incentives. Nearby towns started building up in the hopes of increased tourist dollars. Small, poor towns that spent money they really could not afford in order to attract people they believed would be flooding in once the ark opened. 

That’s not even mentioning that a lot of the tax incentives rely on the ark being successful. They would recoup the money by funneling sales taxes to pay back loans the ark took out.

 So if the ark doesn’t make as much as predicted, these people are on the hook. Big time. 

The first attendance numbers are out. And they are not good. On te first week, the most highly publicized week, only 30,000 people came. Let’s be generous and say that about 60% of this number can be expected on a normal week. And let’s again be generous and say that this 18,000 on a normal week happens every week, i.e. no closures and no slumps. Even with this the park will fail to brink in one million visitors in its first year. 

But that is extremely generous. This should have been a packed week. It was the opening week, press and hoopla everywhere. But by all accounts the turnout was lousy. And the numbers are bearing it out. What’s worse is Christians who are going are calling this a ripoff not worth the $40 a piece admission (and $10 parking).

I feel sad for Kentucky. I feel sad for the people who banked on this being a big draw. I feel sad for those who were swindled into investing in what will likely be a failed project. I feel sad for those who would have benefitted from the tax revenue that will not come in. 

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