Attendance at Ark Encounter dropped precipitously in March, compared to the same period last year, but at least this month we can attribute that to COVID-19.
The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 15,145 paying visitors in March. That’s a mere fraction of the 70,466 they had last March.
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)||15,145 ($7,572.50)||(Decrease from previous year: 55,321)|
|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.
The Ark didn’t shut down until March 17, but it’s clear there was lower attendance in the weeks prior to that, too. Their on-site conferences also had to be postponed. It must be a tough hit for them given that March is when attendance usually ramps up due to Spring Break trips and warmer weather. Most workers at the Ark have also been temporarily laid off.
As thrilled as I am by the low attendance, I can’t even claim schadenfreude here because the Ark is going through what all businesses are going through and everyone’s suffering right now. (It would be so much sweeter if attendance dropped because people saw through the con of Young Earth Creationism. That day will have to wait.)
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)