FRANKFORT, Ky. — A full-scale replica of Noah's Ark will be the biggest feature of a creationism-themed amusement park expected to open in 2014 in northern Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday.
The $150 million park will be built by a for-profit group called Ark Encounter LLC, which is partnering with Answers in Genesis, most widely known for its high-tech Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., Beshear said at a Capitol news conference.
Site selection is not decided, he said, but the organizers have options on 800 acres in Grant County off Interstate 15, about 40 miles from the Creation Museum, which is outside Cincinnati, Ohio. The Ark Encounter website says the park will go in the Grant County site.
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“Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and with the estimated 900 jobs this project will create, I am happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region,” Beshear said in a prepared statement.
The park is expected to draw 1.6 million visitors a year, Beshear said, citing a feasibility study by America’s Research Group.
In addition to the full-size ark, the complex will include a walled city, live animal shows, a children’s interactive play area, a replica of the Tower of Babel, a 500-seat special effects theater, an aviary, a journey through biblical history, and a first-century Middle Eastern village.
Builders plan to use environmentally friendly Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building techniques.
Ark Encounter says it will pay the bulk of construction costs by raising about $125 million. Answers in Genesis is raising $24.5 million to pay for the Ark replica. The Ark Encounter website shows a $100 donation sponsors a wooden peg; $1,000, a plank; or $5,000, a beam. The website indicated that nearly $113,000 was raised by Wednesday afternoon.
Ark Encounter did not announce ticket prices, but its website says, "The average one-day ticket price is expected to be comparable to other regional attractions."
A 2011 full-price, one-day ticket to Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, is $51.99, but discounts are available, according to the amusement park's website.
Ark Encounter developers seek to recover under state tourism development laws up to 25 percent of the project's cost by recouping sales tax revenue paid to the state on tickets, lodging and other goods.
While state support of a religious-themed project is probably not illegal, attorney Ed Kagin, called it questionable, said the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“They’re implicitly endorsing this project, and I think that is improper,” said the American Atheists board member.
Other officials welcomed the potential economic boost for the community.
State Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, quoted by the Cincinnati Enquirer, said Ark Encounter will provide a “once-in-a-lifetime economic boost” for Grant County.
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“This project will do two things for our community: It will add 900 permanent jobs at a time when they are extremely hard to come by, and it will become a worldwide beacon for those who share our faith,” he said.
Grant County Judge-executive Darrell Link said, “With every ark there is a rainbow and at the end of this rainbow is a pot of gold.”
Answers in Genesis will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the park, which will be built by The Troyer Group, headquartered in Mishawaka, Ind., says the Ark Encounter website.
The Creation Museum, opened in May 2007, "brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings," says the Creation Museum website. "Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
Among other museum exhibits are a planetarium showing "the amazing 'Created Cosmos,'" four theaters including a special effects auditorium featuring "Men in White," a Dinosaur Den, Noah's Ark construction site, and a cave about "Natural Selection Is Not Evolution."
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