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Editor’s note: This article was adapted from a news release distributed to the national media today.
PETERSBURG, Kentucky, August 7, 2014 — Soon after the arrival of a crucial federal permit that took over one year to obtain, massive earth-moving equipment is descending on the location of the future Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky. The first wave of equipment made its way up I-75 from Lexington, Kentucky and is arriving at the Ark’s Williamstown site throughout the day, as excavation and building starts on a massive full-size Noah’s Ark.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the organization behind the Ark Encounter, declared: “Obtaining the final federal permit and receiving preliminary approval by the state to receive a possible refund of sales tax collected at the Ark when it opens were the final two hurdles before excavation and construction could begin. It’s thrilling to see dozers, scrapers, tractors, and compactors arriving at the Ark property.”
“A tremendous amount of work had been going on behind the scenes.”
Ham added: “While waiting for the necessary approvals to arrive, a tremendous amount of work had been going on behind the scenes: securing several permits from state and local agencies; completing complex architectural and engineering work; designing the world-class exhibits; letting bids and signing contracts; clearing trees, and many other tasks that the average person would not know of.”
Just as important, considerable funding has been raised through bonds, donations, and memberships towards the $73 million first phase of the Ark Encounter. The park’s centerpiece will be a 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark off busy I-75 at exit 154. It is anticipated that with the design work largely completed for phase one, the Ark will open in the summer of 2016. A feasibility study indicates that up to two million people will visit the impressive ship in the first year.
As noted above, the start of excavation was awaiting preliminary approval from the state for the Ark to receive a possible refund of sales tax collected at the completed park (e.g., from ticket sales, merchandise, and food). Performance-based, the refund of sales tax will occur if the Ark draws large crowds and thus brings millions of tourism dollars into the state. Ham, in countering Ark critics who have falsely claimed that Kentucky taxpayers are helping to fund the construction of the Ark, declared: “Not one dollar will come out of the state coffers to help build the Ark. Because the refund will come from the sales tax collected from those who voluntarily visited the Ark when it opens, no unwilling taxpayer is involved in the ship’s construction.”
“A huge project like this will create thousands of jobs directly and indirectly and bring millions of dollars into the state treasury.”
Gov. Steve Beshear (D) supports the project (including the sales tax refund available through the state’s Tourism Development Act) because the Ark Encounter will promote economic development in Kentucky. Ham observed: “A huge project like this will create thousands of jobs directly and indirectly and bring millions of dollars into the state treasury. Already our Creation Museum in Petersburg has brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the regional economy as it has drawn well over two million visitors. This year, guests have continued to pour in to the museum, and on some days attendance records have been set.” Over 3,200 guests toured last Saturday.
The Ark Encounter and the successful Creation Museum are outreaches of the Christian apologetics organization of Answers in Genesis. The museum recently unveiled a world-class $1.5 million exhibit of an allosaur dinosaur skeleton, and hosted the famous Bill Nye/Ken Ham evolution-creation debate in February (conservatively estimated to have been watched by upwards of 15 million people).