Noah's Ark Park to Open in Kentucky

Private investors are looking to construct the world's largest religious theme park in Kentucky, which will include a "full-size" replica of Noah's Ark.

The proposed $150 million creationism-themed amusement park's main feature is an ark built to the dimensions specified in the Bible. Other attractions at the theme park, named Ark Encounter, will include live animal shows, a replica of the Tower of Babel, a 500-seat special effects theater, an aviary, and a mockup of a first-century Middle Eastern village.

The park will be built by a for-profit group called Ark Encounter LLC in conjunction with Answers in Genesis, an apologetics ministry most famous for its Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Creation Museum, opened in May 2007, saw its millionth visitor last April and requires all employees to sign a statement affirming they are Christians, a requirement that may be extended to Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter website states the park will be built by Ark Encounter LLC, however, the Arc structure itself will be funded through donations. The website gives supporters the opportunity to donate by sponsoring actual pieces that will be used to built the ark. Fans can donate $100 to sponsor a peg for the ark; $1,000 for a plank, or $5,000 for a beam.

According to Forbes, Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis, expects the park will draw around 1.6 million visitors a year.

"The mission of the project, Zovath said, is to lend credence to the biblical account of a catastrophic flood and to dispel doubts that Noah could have fit two of every kind of animal onto a 500-foot-long ark," wrote Forbes.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Wednesday the park is expected to open in 2014, although site selection is so far undecided. Organizers are looking closely at an 800-acre plot of land in Grant County off Interstate 75, just 40 miles from Cincinnati, Ohio and a 45-minute drive from the Creation Museum.

To move ahead with the project, Beshear said he favors encouraging investors by providing tax incentives. The idea immediately drew opposition from groups vying for the separation of church and state.

"It's perfectly fine for a private group to relaunch Noah's ark, but the governor shouldn't go along for the ride," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, according to Forbes. "The government should not be giving tax incentives for religious projects. Religion should be supported by voluntary donations, not the government."

In a prepared statement, Beshear said "bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority" and that he is "happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region." It is estimated that the new theme park will create about 900 permanent jobs, as well as have a $214 million economic impact in its first year of operation alone.

Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link said the project could stimulate a community that has for generations leaned on the dwindling tobacco industry for jobs.

"Along with this ark, I anticipate that there is going to be a rainbow," Link said to Forbes. "And at the end of that rainbow is a pot of gold."

Image courtesy of the Ark Encounter.

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