In 2014, Creationist Ken Ham said this about estimated attendance at Ark Encounter, his Noah’s Ark theme park which had not yet opened:
… the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year.
Even after the attraction opened this past summer, NBC News reported Answers in Genesis giving the same estimate:
Ham hopes to attract close to 2 million guests in the attraction’s first year.
For a while now, we’ve been wondering what the attendance numbers actually are. We never received specific numbers, but drones in the parking lot have showed a lot of empty spaces relative to the capacity, even in the middle of the day.
Now we have some specifics. WLWT TV in Cincinnati ran a puff piece on Ark Encounter and quoted some actual attendance numbers, along with Ham’s estimate for the first year… and wouldn’t you know it? Ham’s projections are much lower today.
Just since July 7 [when the Ark opened], the number of people who have visited the Ark is about the same as the population of Cincinnati — around 300,000.
And [they] are projecting about 1.4 million for the year…
The reporter added that attendance hovers between 4,000 – 7,000 a day.
“1.4 million for the year.” That would be a 30% drop in projected attendance since July.
Let’s do some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations here: If the park has been open for 71 days and has had 300,000 people show up, that’s an average of 4,225 people each day. At that pace, they would get just over 1.5 million people visiting in the first year, which is roughly what Ham is estimating.
But that’s assuming the pace remains the same during the winter, when the weather is bad, and during the school year, when kids have other obligations. That’s not going to happen. The attendance figures will only go down for at least the next several months.
You also have to remember that this attraction will draw in a lot of gawkers who come once and never again — and most of them will likely come in the first year. It’s not a theme park that most people will visit repeatedly. This isn’t a real museum; the exhibits aren’t going to change with new information.
So the 2 million visitor estimate was overstated. Just as we predicted.
There’s another bit of good news here, too. The tourism incentive that Ark Encounter is receiving from Kentucky taxpayers — worth up to $18 million — is based entirely on attendance numbers. If fewer people are visiting the Ark, that means less money will go from the state’s bank account to Creationists.
None of this is very surprising, though. The one thing we know about Ken Ham and his Creationist crew is that they’re awful when it comes to dealing with large numbers.