Kentucky Grants Creationist Theme Park $43M In Tax Incentives

May 20, 2011 8:52 a.m.

Plans for the construction of a “creationist theme park” in Kentucky are moving right along, with the state’s tourism board on Thursday granting the project $43.1 million in tax incentives.

The theme park — dubbed Ark Encounter — is backed by both Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Answers is Genesis, a Christian organization that also built a similar attraction, the Creation Museum.“This was the last real hurdle for us as far as I’m concerned,” Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis, told the Associated Press.

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. In order to qualify for tax incentives, the park must meet certain attendance requirements.

The Courier-Journal in Kentucky reports on Hunden Strategic Partners’ Rob Hundedn’s projections for the park:

Hunden projects that by the fourth year the Ark Encounter park would see 1.24 million visitors under the first scenario and 871,383 under the second. Both figures are short of the developers’ projections of 1.6 million visitors a year.

Under the first scenario it would have a net fiscal impact, including sales and income taxes, of $119 million over the 10-year incentive period when one-time construction figures are included and the cost of incentives is deducted.

Americans United for Citizens of Separation of Church and State condemns the project, saying job creation is “not a good enough reason for the state to promote a religious enterprise.”

“This misguided project deserves to sink,” AU Executive Director Barry Lynn said.

But Gil Lawson, of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, says that the law establishing tax incentives is neutral.

“We treated this application like any other,” he told TPM Friday. “We can not discriminate against this project based on any religious criteria.”

Lawson added that the state won’t award the tax incentives until the theme park is built and proves it meets the necessary requirements.

Ark Encounter will include: a full-sized wooden ark, a “walled city much like was found in ancient times” and even outdoor parking. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in August, and the park is projected to open in the spring of 2014.

Watch the park’s plans in the video below:

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