The state of Kentucky seems to believe the $150 million Ark Encounter park could be popular with tourists. So, yesterday, the tourism board gave approval for up to $43 million dollars in tax rebates that could cover up to 25 percent of the construction costs on the creationist theme park if it meets attendance goals.
Ever since the Ark Encounter was first announced, the backers promised it could attract 1.6 million visitors a year with renditions of Old Testament icons like Noah's giant vessel, the Tower of Babel and the Red Sea. If approved, the Bible-themed mega attraction would be only the latest project from the non-profit Answers in Genesis, which has also built a Creation Museum in the state that educates visitors on Bible stories from a historical bent. Gov. Beshear, citing the theme-park's job-creating potential, has been on board with the Ark Encounter since its inception.
Still, the tax incentive news won't sit well with those who think that the Ark Encounter is a thinly-veiled attempt at spreading creationism as historical fact. At the hearing before the tourism board, the project developers seem to suggest they'll be downplaying the creationism angle--primarily to boost attendance among those who might be turned off my the message. Ark Encounter's consultant presented a report to the tourism board that, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, concluded, "If the park does not espouse a particular philosophy, such as creationism, it will draw a larger audience, Hunden estimated. Under that scenario — which Ark Encounter backers said Thursday they will follow — the park is estimated to draw about 1.2 million visitors a year and have a net economic impact, minus the sales-tax rebates, of about $119 million over a decade."
The less devout residents of Kentucky may have qualms with a Bible-approved full-scale replica of Noah's vessel. No matter, an attraction that looks like this wasn't really tailor-made for their sensibilities anyway: