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 by the mainstream media 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.
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. In the first three months, 350,000 people had visited the Ark Encounter, far exceeding one State of Kentucky estimate, which had estimated 325,000 people for the entire year. Despite false reports casting the Ark Encounter as a failing attraction, it has seen large crowds and attracted much tourism to the Northern Kentucky area. The Ark Encounter had a strong and successful first year, hosting 1 million visitors. Attendance at the Creation Museum was nearly triple the yearly average that year. The Ark Encounter continued expanding and seeing large numbers of visitors.
Soon after the opening, several notable people had already visited the Ark Encounter.
To celebrate the Christmas season in 2016, AiG decorated the Ark with rainbow lights in order to "take the rainbow back" from the homosexual agenda and show the true and undefiled meaning of the rainbow as recorded in Genesis 9:12-16. Like usual, the media and supporters of the homosexual agenda have circulated blatant misrepresentations and even lies concerning this action as well as the true meaning of the rainbow. Ken Ham announced in February 2017 that AiG would permanently light the Ark in rainbow colors, something achieved in July of that year.
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.
The Ark Encounter has received positive reviews from both Christian creationists and non-creationists. There have been visitors from all across the nation, the world, and from diverse social and personal backgrounds. The Ark Encounter has come under intense attack by atheists and others who oppose creation, but this is unsurprising and it has not affected the success of the attraction. There has also been a lot of misrepresentation of the Ark and its success by the media, but again, this is unsurprising.
It was reported in May 2017 that, according to the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum were helping increase tourism in the Northern Kentucky region. According to the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitor Bureau, 2017 was the best-ever year to date for Northern Kentucky tourism.
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. Despite this, many atheists have visited the Ark Encounter.
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- Eads, Morgan (July 23, 2017). A Christian theme park claims it is ‘taking back’ the rainbow from the LGBTQ community. The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
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- As it was in the days of Noah ... Ark Encounter fights fake news. WND. July 29, 2017. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
- Ashwill, Vickie (May 16, 2017). Ark Encounter helped tide of Northern Kentucky tourism rise in 2016. WCPO. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Ham, Ken (March 27, 2018). Northern Kentucky Has Its Best Year for Tourism Ever. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
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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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- Parke, Caleb (January 11, 2019). Ken Ham offers free admission to schools after atheist group warns against Ark Encounter field trips. Fox News. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Smith, Samuel (January 10, 2019). Atheist group warns over 1,000 school districts not to take kids to Ark Encounter; Ken Ham responds. The Christian Post. Retrieved January 11, 2019.