The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 16,328 paying visitors in February. That’s less than the 17,961 they had last February. The low overall number isn’t all that surprising given that it’s really freaking cold, which is bad for theme parks in general, but keep in mind that Creationist Ken Ham has also made a big deal about the new ice skating rink outside the boat. It’s unclear how many people visited the Ark for the skating and not so much to learn about Noah.
Here are all the attendance numbers we know — in a fancy new chart! — along with the Safety Fee that Answers in Genesis has paid to the city of Williamstown. (The public nature of that fee is how we know the attendance numbers at all.)
|Month||2017 (Fee)||2018 (Fee)||2019 (Fee)||Notes|
|January||13,250 ($6,625.00)||14,885 ($7,442.50)||(Increase from previous year: 1,635)|
|February||17,961 ($8,980.50)||16,328 ($8,164.00)||(Drop from previous year: 1,633)|
|July||142,626 ($71,313.00)||135,922 ($67,961.00)||(Drop from previous year: 6,704)|
|August||106,161 ($53,080.50)||98,106 ($49,053.00)||(Drop from previous year: 8,055)|
|September||83,330 ($41,665.00)||69,207 ($34,603.50)||(Drop from previous year: 14,123)|
|October||93,659 ($46,829.50)||89,434 ($44,717.00)||(Drop from previous year: 4,225)|
|November||51,914 ($25,957.00)||40,193 ($20,096.50)||(Drop from previous year: 11,721)|
|December||36,472 ($18,236.00)||46,400 ($24,200.00)||(Increase from previous year: 9,928)|
Are Creationists freaking out about this? Who knows. They’re used to pretending small numbers represent enormous ones.
Ham will inevitably say that the attendance is actually much higher than these numbers represent because kids get in for free, as do members with lifetime passes. But giving away freebies to children and life members doesn’t help the local economy as much as drawing in first-time customers who are ready to spend money. Business owners aren’t banking on tourism dollars from the four-year-olds who get on the boat without a full-price ticket. (As Phelps joked in an email to me, “it is entirely possible that hoards of 4 year olds are overwhelming the place, brought by their lifetime member parents or guardians.”)
The ship is still sinking.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)