The theme park — dubbed Ark Encounter — is backed by both Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Answers in Genesis, a Christian organization that also built a similar attraction, the Creation Museum.In the news release announcing the plans, Beshear touted that the park would create around 900 jobs and bring 1.6 million tourists to the state in its first year. Those numbers were based on a feasability study, commissioned by Ark Encounters LLC — a study that state officials, including Beshear, reportedly never actually saw.
The tax incentives could subsidize up to 25 percent of the project. As part of the incentives, the state would return the sales tax on costs such as food, admission and gift sales.
Beshear spokesperson Kerri Richardson told the Herald-Leader that the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, under which the park is seeking the tax incentives, will require the state to conduct its own feasability study, which will take about three-and-a-half months.
“The state doesn’t put in a penny to this project until it is completed, operating, and hitting the agreed-upon performance goals set through the Tourism Development Act,” she added. “If they complete the project and it doesn’t perform as well as projected, then the state does not pay a nickel on the deal.”
So just how trustworthy is a feasability report that no one has seen? America’s Research Group, run by Britt Beemer, conducted the study. Fun fact: Beemer actually co-wrote a book with Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham.
Beemer told the Lexington-Herald, “When someone asks me to do one of these studies, I’m thorough.” The study involved “behavioral-based research,” which included calling 1,000 people and asking them 147 questions about the theme park.
Gov. Beshear’s Deputy Communications Director Jill Midkiff stressed to TPM that the feasability report was not required as part of the application for tax incentives, but she did say the report’s jobs and tourism numbers were included in the application.
Ark Encounter will include all the modern recreation amenities, including: a full-sized wooden ark, a “walled city much like was found in ancient times, a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits, a first-century Middle Eastern village” and even outdoor parking. The park is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014.