Say what you will about the Creationist theology behind Ark Encounter, the $100 million Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky, but one of the supposed benefits of the attraction was the economic boost it was going to provide local communities.
If two million people visited Ark Encounter in its first year, as Answers in Genesis estimated, local restaurants would see new customers, hotels would be sold out, and stores would see an increase in sales.
It’s been nearly a month since the Park opened, and things are looking grim.
We already knew the job situation was messed up. The folks at Answers in Genesis promised that locals would get first crack at the new jobs created by the Ark. They neglected to point out at the time that those jobs would only be available for people who shared their fundamentalist view of the world. If you don’t accept Young Earth Creationism or the idea that homosexuality is a sin, for example, you can’t even sell tickets.
But what about the local communities? They’re suffering, too, reports Scott Wartman of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
It hasn’t created the traffic snarl some feared, but it also hasn’t led to the real estate boom some expected, said Dry Ridge Mayor Jim Wells.
Property owners have held onto property hoping the ark will drive values up, he said. That’s delayed three developments, Wells said, one a restaurant, another a “theme-based” hotel. The third project he wouldn’t release any details on, citing a confidentiality agreement.
Many people don’t make the trip to the region just for the ark. Conventions in Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati bus people in to see the ark then bus them back out. That means many of these people aren’t traveling around the countryside.
“We do have some (tourists) exploring downtown,” said Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner “As the merchants are getting more advertising with the ark, we’re picking up traffic, but it’s not been as immediate as we thought it might be.”
It’s worth mentioning that some areas near the Ark have seen more customers at restaurants, hotels, etc., but other areas that were really depending on the increased traffic haven’t seen the positive impact yet.
It’s only been a few weeks, but this is exactly what critics predicted. Answers in Genesis isn’t doing itself any favors, either, by refusing to release attendance numbers to the public. So the situation may be even worse than anyone suspected.
Maybe the most depressing thing about this whole story is that it’s unlikely that Ark Encounter will see a sudden surge in visitors during the school year. Even when school’s not in session, I’d imagine many of the die-hards are thinking, “Okay. I saw it once. I’m done now.” Whatever the attendance is right now, it’s going to take a nosedive very soon. When that happens, it’s the local taxpayers who will be left wondering why their godly bet isn’t paying off.
Can’t say we didn’t warn them.
(Thanks to Dan P. for the link)