The Ark Encounter is an evangelistic tourist attraction that opened on July 7, 2016 in northern Kentucky. It is predominantly a full-scale model of Noah's Ark. Influential Christian apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis teamed up with the private for-profit company Ark Encounter LLC to build the attraction. The Troyer Group from Indiana is responsible for the actual construction while Patrick Marsh, the Creation Museum design director, designed and "themed" the attractions. The announcement for its construction came in December 2010.
The ark cost $100 million and is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, based on the dimensions given in the Bible. It is described as the largest timber-frame structure in America and the world.
History, building, and opening
After the completion and success of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham and AiG started focusing on building the Ark Encounter. The plans for constructing the Ark Encounter were announced by AiG, along with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on December 1, 2010.
In January 2014, Ham announced that funding for the project had fallen short, and asked donors for $55 million. However, interest and support for the Ark Encounter returned and AiG was able to raise enough money so construction could begin in 2014, something said to be because of a high-profile debate between AiG president Ken Ham and science educator and evolutionist Bill Nye, even though AiG has stated that this was not the case, as it was not reasonably possible to purchase a bond after the debate.
During the construction of the Ark Encounter, AiG sued the state of Kentucky after officials blocked AiG from receiving a sales tax tourism incentive worth up to $18 million because AiG would use the Ark Encounter to share the gospel. On January 25, 2016, Federal Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled in AiG's favor, ruling that blocking the incentives from AiG was unconstitutional and violated their First Amendment protections.
On July 7, 2016, the Ark Encounter was opened to the general public in Williamstown, Kentucky. The opening date, 7/7, was intentionally chosen to coincide with Genesis 7:7. Roughly 50-120 atheist protestors protested along the exit ramp of I-75 on opening day, even though about half of those at the exit ramp were believed to be Christians who witnessed to the atheists. The next day, Bill Nye visited the Ark Encounter upon invitation from Ham.
For the first 40 days of operation to the general public, the Ark had extended hours, where is opened at 9 am and closed at midnight, which symbolized the biblical account of the rains for 40 days and 40 nights.
The attraction will be more than just a life-sized Noah's Ark; it currently includes a petting zoo and a zip line, and it is planned to include a replica of the Tower of Babel, a pre-flood walled village, a first century village, a theater, and much more. The Ark attraction is not only an awe-inspiring and historically accurate center of Biblical displays, but an educational experience. The huge project will educate visitors with a unique, hands-on approach on the details of Biblical history and why it is so important to appreciate Noah and his great service to God and the Earth.
The project is expected to have up to 900 staff and provide many much needed jobs for the state of Kentucky. Kentucky governor Steve Beshear wisely ignored the typical liberal, atheist prejudice against the building of an inspiring Christian attraction and supported its construction. However, he turned against the ark in 2014. The family-oriented Ark is expected to enlighten as many as 1.6 million visitors a year. The Ark Encounter will serve as a vital and beneficial Christian influence on not just the state of Kentucky but the country as a whole. Creationists such as Answers in Genesis' president Ken Ham view the Ark Encounter as a very important undertaking which will provide an important educational and spiritual center for Christians to get closer to their faith and for non-believers to realize and appreciate the authenticity of Christianity and its deep, historical roots.
Because the Ark Encounter is an explicitly Christian attraction with an explicitly Christian message, many atheists are opposed to it to a fanatical degree. After the Ark Encounter opened, many atheists spread a rumor that attendance levels were extremely low. However, in September 2016, it was reported by reliable sources that Ark Encounter attendance actually exceeded expectations.
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- Hamrick, Brian (September 15, 2016). Riding wave of popularity, Ark Encounter exceeds attendance projections. WLWT. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
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- The Ark Encounter exceeds attendance projections. WLKY. September 16, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.