Before the Ark Encounter opened, many articles by the secular media mocked the project. Reporters and bloggers declared that we would not get the number of visitors we estimated. In addition, a report commissioned by the state of Kentucky (for which we had to pay a high five-figure amount) as a part of our application for the tourism tax incentive claimed attendance would probably be as low as 325,000 visitors a year.
The state gave two possible attendance scenarios for the Ark:
- “The Project is operated, programmed and promoted as a direct outreach of the Creationist movement and/or Creation Museum. The audience for this scenario is projected to be smaller.” The study concluded that 325,000 people would visit the first year and then would rise to 425,000 by the third year and then settle at 275,000 per year.1
- “The Project is operated, programmed and advertised as a mainstream interpretation of Biblical events and does not promote a creationist view of Biblical events that may turn off a portion of the potential market.” For this scenario, the state’s study predicted that under 500,000 visitors would attend the first year, 640,000 by the third year, and then settle at 400,000 per year.2
For our part, we had commissioned the respected America’s Research Group, which is known for conducting primary research (e.g., surveys done over the phone), to estimate the projected number of visitors at the Ark. ARG did two national surveys, one in 2008 and again in 2015. They concluded that the minimum attendance for the Ark’s first year would be 1.4 million people and up to a possible 2.2 million. ARG also predicted that attendance would rise each year for the first five years, even if no new attractions were added at the Ark Encounter.
The Ark Encounter opened July 7, and we’ve already easily surpassed 400,000 visitors.
Well, the Ark Encounter opened July 7, and we’ve already easily surpassed 400,000 visitors. Taking group bookings and other information into account, we believe next summer will be much busier than what we just saw this past summer. Right now, we are on track to reach more than 1.4 million people.
It’s important to note that the research conducted for the state was not primary research at all, but what’s called comparative.
The anti-Christian group the Freedom From Religion Foundation used the state’s figures to mock the Ark project, and claimed we were inflating attendance numbers. But the 325,000 mark was reached in 2.5 months!
Secular media outlets have done their best to question ARG’s attendance estimates, labeling the Ark as an outreach of the creation movement and thus claiming that attendance would lag.
Downplaying the Success of the Attraction
The Ark’s success was mentioned today by the state’s largest newspaper, the Courier-Journal of Louisville. Curiously, the article demonstrates how a reporter and his editor can take a situation where a Christian attraction (the Ark) is seen to be hugely successful, yet downplays it and mocks us for our stand on God’s Word. (See the entire article, which was posted online yesterday.)
The reporter states: “The 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark replica in Grant County, Ky., was predicted to attract 500,000 visitors in its first year by a state consultant and 1.2 million by Answers in Genesis, the Apologetics ministry behind the project, The Courier-Journal previously reported.” Note that he used the high figure given by the state consultants, which is not the figure he should have cited. The reporter should have used the lower figure (325,000), predicted by the state consultants.3 After all, the paper, in its ongoing effort to put down the Ark project, had been labeling the Ark as a creationist attraction and thus claiming we would not draw well. Regardless, the state’s study was completely wrong, while America’s Research Group’s prediction of a minimum of 1.4 million guests is looking to be accurate.
In writing about the Ark, the reporter claims this about me: “AiG head Ken Ham said at the time he hoped it would ‘undo the brainwashing’ of ‘mainstream science.’ Now, notice that the words “undo the brainwashing” are in quotes. Yes, I did use those words. But I did not use the words “of mainstream science.” Those are the reporter’s words, as he tries to make out that AiG is against science, which is simply not true. (Our several full-time scientists holding doctorate degrees would concur.) Instead, I would have said something like: “We want to undo the brainwashing of the secularists who teach evolution as fact to students and the public.”
Anyone who reads my articles or hears my lectures knows that I teach clearly (as I did during my 2014 debate with Bill Nye “the Science Guy”) the difference between “historical science” and “observational science.” We need to define what is meant by the word science.
Note that the reporter (as nearly all secular media seem to do) made statements like the following in their attempts to mock us: “They argue that science supports the Bible’s creation story and that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that geologic features were made in Noah's flood and that dinosaurs co-existed with humans—all contrary to established science.”
Yes, we do believe observational science confirms the Bible’s account of history. And we declare the universe is young—and that most (not all) of the geologic features on the surface of the earth are connected to Noah’s Flood. This is not contrary to “established science” but contrary to the secularists’ historical science (i.e., beliefs about the past).
The reporter quotes Bill Nye, but note that he failed to make specific statements about Nye in regard to his own beliefs. For instance, the writer could have described him as “Bill Nye, who believes that humans are related to bananas, that we all could be descendants of Martians, and that matter turned into life all by itself—all contrary to observational science.” Nye does believe such things, but Christians are the ones who get singled out for ridicule.
And then the reporter attempted to downplay the impact of the Ark project on the region with the following:
“I think the expectation was there would be more foot traffic in our downtown areas,” said Jamie Baker, executive director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. “We're not seeing the numbers of people coming and spending the dollars here that we would like” but that is likely to eventually change if hotels and restaurants are developed, she said.4
At the BP Ezy Stop, one of two gas stations off the Ark Encounter exit, owner Tony Baffi was quoted by the Courier-Journal as saying that the Ark has "helped us a little bit, not tremendously." The reporter noted that some developers have expressed interest, but "’no one has started to build yet,’ said Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner, who said he's happy with the attendance.”
First, the reporter didn’t talk to the many businesses that have already seen an incredible impact as a result of the Ark’s opening, like Shem’s Snack Shack in Williamstown, Beans Café in Dry Ridge, the Marathon Station close to the Ark’s entrance, and many others! And the occupancy rate at hotels within a one- to two-hour driving distance of the Ark is through the roof!
Second, it should be obvious that as the Ark brings hundreds of thousands (and eventually millions) of people to the county, it’s ultimately up to the local citizens to figure out how to capitalize on it. Even so, Ark staff have been meeting with local leaders and business owners to help figure out how to get Ark guests to visit other parts of the community.
Wouldn’t it be nice if reporters actually did some detailed research before making sweeping claims, and simply reported on what is really happening instead of downplaying impact and taking jabs as part of their ongoing anti-Christian agenda?
Then again, we are a conservative Christian ministry that boldly stands on the truth of God’s Word and proclaims the gospel. As a result, we shouldn’t expect anything different from the world! I am reminded of the following verse:
Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)