In 2014, curious tourists will be able to flock to Kentucky to immerse themselves in Bible stories--courtesy of a $150 million dollar theme park. Named the Ark Encounter, the project includes a full-scale mock of up Noah's giant vessel and petting zoo (two of each type of animal?) along with Old Testament icons the Walled City, the Tower of Babel and the Red Sea.
The scale of the project--it will create 900 jobs and, when completed, will attract 1.6 million visitors a year--suggests that "theme park" is indeed a proper term for the Encounter. But the site stresses that it isn't simply an amusement park. It will be fun, yes, but it will mainly focus on providing a family focused adventure "while learning about history." (True to their mission statement, the Ark itself will be all-wood version "based on the dimensions provided in the Genesis Chapter 6.")
Kentucky Governor Beshear officially announced the proposal on Wednesday. Although it appears that Ark Encounter's purpose is to educate visitors about Biblical stories, the developers behind the park, the non-profit Answers in Genesis, will--according to the Louisville Courier-Journal--seek state tax incentives that could subsidize up to 25 percent of the project's total costs.
When questioned about the church-state separation issues that the project may raise, Gil Lawson, of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet told Talking Points Memo that the law the establishes a tax incentive for the park is a neutral one: "We look at these applications without any regard to religious issues. They stand on their own, and it depends on if it's adequate financing and does all the things the applicant says it will do. Religion does not play a role in this."
Here's a larger-version sketch of the Ark Encounter concept: