It’s hard to keep up with all of Ken Ham‘s excuses for why Ark Encounter has much lower attendance than they ever estimated. He used to say there would be 2 million visitors in the first year… and he’s since cut that in half.
More importantly, business has not improved in any significant way for the surrounding community. The city of Williamstown gave Answers in Genesis the land on which to build Ark Encounter for only $1. They gave the group a $62 million interest free loan. They gave Ham a 75% break on property taxes over the next 30 years. The list goes on. And yet they’ve gotten very little back for their generosity. Most businesses aren’t growing; some are closing down entirely.
Who’s to blame?
Here’s a thorough list of everyone and everything Ham has blamed for the economic failures of his giant pointless Ark.
1) Entrepreneurs, for not building enough hotels in the area.
For 2017–2018, Answers in Genesis (owner of both attractions) confidently predicts that the Ark will have even greater attendance than our excellent first year — provided, that is, we see more entrepreneurs building additional hotels to accommodate our visitors.
Here’s why this doesn’t make sense. While there may only be two hotels near Ark Encounter, there are several hotels a little up north in the city of Dry Ridge, and even more in Cincinnati. So lodging isn’t really the big issue. Ham is assuming there are many many visitors who would totally come see the Ark from out of state if only they had a place to sleep at night. There’s just no proof that the lodgings are hard to come by. And it’s especially hard to believe that hotels no more than 10-15 minutes away from the Ark are too far away for these out-of-town visitors to stay at.
2) Williamstown, for not having enough restaurants.
Williamstown, where the Ark is located, doesn’t have the tourist-related services that Dry Ridge has, so it needs more businesses like hotels and restaurants if it hopes to experience the growth that Dry Ridge is now enjoying.
Somehow, the fact that Williamstown isn’t a happening place only came to Ken Ham’s awareness this month. He didn’t realize it in the previous years? He didn’t know that when he was looking for a place to build the Ark?
Maybe if the city and its citizens had more money in their pockets — from tax revenue or jobs at Ark Encounter, say — they could invest that money into a new small business.
3) Atheists, for bad-mouthing his Boat.
Recently, a number of articles in the mainstream media, on blogs, and on well-known secularist group websites have attempted to spread propaganda to brainwash the public into thinking our Ark Encounter attraction is a dismal failure. Sadly, they are influencing business investors and others in such a negative way that they may prevent Grant County, Kentucky, from achieving the economic recovery that its officials and residents have been seeking.
Who knew atheists had the power to derail a $100 million Ark?!
Look: If we really had that kind of power, Donald Trump wouldn’t be in the White House.
If anything, you’d think atheists criticizing Ark Encounter would fall right into the Christian Persecution narrative conservatives love so much and drive even more traffic to the Ark.
As much as I would love to take credit for helping take down this Ark, the truth is atheists have been just as critical of the Creation Museum ever since it opened. But you won’t read much about how the business is bad and attendance is low. The Creation Museum seems to be doing just fine. So don’t blame the critics just because you made a pathetic product.
4) Bus companies, for not being able to bring groups of people to the Boat.
[Patrick Kanewske, director of training and education for the Ark Encounter and the nearby Creation Museum]: “Last year wasn’t a typical year. We didn’t have our bus companies set up. All the commercial buses that have come since through have really increased our numbers…quite a bit. So after this next year we’re gonna see an explosion.“
For this to make sense, you’d have to assume there are Christians within driving distance of the Ark, who want to visit with their friends, but who are unable to do so because there’s no bus to pick them all up. And those people supposedly amount to hundreds of thousands of visitors that represent the difference between estimated and actual attendance.
Blaming buses for the Ark’s attendance misses the picture entirely. If they had a better product, people would find ways to see it.
5) The calendar, because it’s been a weird year.
“Attendance has exceeded our expectations,” Ham told [Gospel Herald]. “The original projection of the Ark Encounter — 1.1 million to 2.2 million in attendance — were in a normal years, and we haven’t had a normal year yet. We won’t have one until our second year. And, as we mark our first anniversary, we’ll hit the low end of the estimated guest number, which is absolutely amazing for an abnormal year.”
They’ve also said that “The Ark opened after many summer vacation weeks had passed.” But that excuse ignores the fact that first year attendance would include those very weeks at the end of Year 1. Even if the attraction opened in the middle of a blizzard, there would be time later in the year for Christians to bring their families.
By the way: At no point before this summer did they ever say it would be a weird year. When Ham opened the attraction in 2016, he didn’t lowball attendance estimates because it was a “non-normal” year. That’s an excuse they created only after the fact.
Ham doesn’t blame the lackluster boat, or the over-inflated ticket prices, or the fact that it’s a monument to mythology masquerading as fact. It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?