Attendance at Ark Encounter has increased a bit, compared to the same period last year. But that’s on the verge of changing due to COVID-19.
The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 17,290 paying visitors in February. That’s a bit more than the 16,328 they had last February.
Here are all the attendance numbers we know 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)||2020 (Fee)||Notes|
|January||13,250 ($6,625.00)||14,885 ($7,442.50)||15,790 ($7,895.00)||(Increase from previous year: 905)|
|February||17,961 ($8,980.50)||16,328 ($8,164.00)||17,290 ($8,645.00)||(Increase from previous year: 962)|
|March||62,251 ($31,125.50)||70,466 ($35,233.00)||(Increase from previous year: 8,215)|
|April||67,613 ($33,806.50)||79,908 ($39,954.00)||(Increase from previous year: 12,295)|
|May||73,353 ($36,676.50)||90,803 ($45,401.50)||(Increase from previous year: 17,450)|
|June||113,901 ($56,950.50)||124,230 ($62,115.00)||(Increase from previous year: 10,329)|
|July||142,626 ($71,313.00)||135,922 ($67,961.00)||160,124 ($80,062.00)||(Increase from previous year: 24,202)|
|August||106,161 ($53,080.50)||98,106 ($49,053.00)||104,350 ($52,175.00)||(Increase from previous year: 6,244)|
|September||83,330 ($41,665.00)||69,207 ($34,603.50)||73,541 ($36,770.50)||(Increase from previous year: 4,334)|
|October||93,659 ($46,829.50)||89,434 ($44,717.00)||86,988 ($43,494.00)||(Drop from previous year: 2,446)|
|November||51,914 ($25,957.00)||40,193 ($20,096.50)||37,686 ($18,881.00)||(Drop from previous year: 2,507)|
|December||36,472 ($18,236.00)||46,400 ($24,200.00)||37,880 ($18,940.00)||(Drop from previous year: 8,520)|
Keep in mind all of this is happening as Ark Encounter is dealing with a (hilarious) million-dollar lawsuit involving rain damage.
Ham may have forestalled a more catastrophic drop, but it’s likely due to factors that have nothing to do with interest in a biblical myth. The weather wasn’t as bad as previous winters, which helped avoid a more catastrophic month. The fact that the park was closed on Sundays and Mondays didn’t seem to change the attendance numbers. Keep in mind there’s a conference center on the premises that allows thousands of people to visit the park in one fell swoop. There’s also a playground and petting zoo. They’ve also been advertising on Facebook and on FOX News. All of that requires a lot of money; the question is whether the investment is worth it in the long run.
Now, however, with the virus shutting down the park, we can expect a huge dip in numbers for months when the Ark would’ve been rising in attendance. That one’s out of his control. But the question is how they’ll respond.
Remember that actual attendance is 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 or conference attendees who are there for another reason.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)