Answers in Genesis is bragging that its Ark Encounter—a supposedly life-size replica of Noah’s ark the group built in Williamstown, Kentucky, as a “world-class Christian themed attraction”—drew more than a million visitors in its second year of operation, up to 8,000 per day.
Answers in Genesis is the group that launched the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky to provide a high-tech forum for presenting evidence for its belief that the universe was created in six days several thousand years ago. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has called the museum “a conservative base in the culture war.” Exhibits show animatronic dinosaurs existing side-by-side with humans and dinosaurs joining other animals boarding Noah’s Ark, and argue that the Grand Canyon was not created over millions of years but in the catastrophic flood that Noah and his family rode out in the ark.
Today’s press release says that the Creation Museum, which opened in 2006, has welcomed 3.6 million visitors, with attendance doubling since the Ark Encounter opened.
AIG says Ark Encounter is in the process of a major expansion. Here’s what upgrades in 2018 and 2019 are bringing:
- A large 2,500-seat auditorium inside a multi-purpose facility called the Answers Center will open later this year near the ark. The center will include a 36,000-square-foot basement with classrooms and breakout areas.
- The impressive Ararat Ridge Zoo behind the ark is doubling in size, to be completed by the summer of 2019. Tibetan yaks, zebras, alpacas, kangaroos, and many other animals have been added since the Ark Encounter opened.
- A large new children’s play area is being planned for a spring 2019 opening.
- Village Market on the west side of the lake features new food venues and one-of-a-kind retail items for sale, including Fair Trade products. Featured in this village is Oscar’s Store, with unique hand-painted items.
- The new Monument Walk entrance to the ark, now open on the east side of the lake, is an instructive area where guests are introduced to major biblical events of Genesis prior to Noah’s Flood. Exotic live birds are also exhibited.
- The beautiful Rainbow Gardens are a must-see for guests as they walk to the Ararat Ridge Zoo. In one spot, flowers help recreate the rainbow of Genesis chapter 9 for visitors to view as they sit in covered eating areas.
- The huge Emzara’s Buffet restaurant, with 1,500 seats, now features an expanded buffet with many new menu items, drawing raves from guests.
AIG received state tax credits to open its ark attraction—after winning a fight over the fact that Ark Encounter hires only people who share its religious beliefs. In 2017, the group tried to get out of paying a per-ticket “safety fee” to the city of Williamstown by selling the for-profit Ark Encounter to a non-profit group they owned for $10, but reversed course when state officials said the move would make the group ineligible for millions in tax rebates.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last fall that under the group’s current agreement with the state, “Kentucky must pay the theme park $1.8 million a year for 10 years as long as the attraction generates at least that much in sales taxes from tickets, food and rides each year.” The state reported last year that Ark Encounter generated more than $2.28 million in sales taxes in its first year.
AIG now says the Ark Encounter is having a “remarkable economic impact on the region” and generating “thousands of ark-related jobs.”
AIG wants “biblical creationism” to be taught in public schools. In 2014 it slammed the “Cosmos” series for not providing time to evolution deniers, and released a movie portraying creationists as the victims of religious persecution.
AIG is not only focused on Creationism; belief in the literal six-day creation is essential, its leaders believe, to upholding the literal truth of the entire Bible. AIG and its leader Ken Ham are intensely opposed to homosexuality. Ham said in 2015 that homosexual behavior is a sign that America is “under judgment” for “throwing God out of the culture more and more, it’s throwing God out of the public schools, out of the culture, and murdering millions of children in their mothers wombs.” He made the same argument last year, saying part of the blame lies with church leaders who “water down” the gospel.