Kentucky’s ‘Ark Encounter’ Creationist Theme Park Struggles To Stay Afloat

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It’s been a while since we checked in with Kentucky’s planned “creationist theme park.” A local alternative magazine, LEO Weekly, reported this week that slow fundraising has delayed the Ark Encounter’s groundbreaking.

In an email exchange between Answers in Genesis Senior Vice President Mark Zovath — Answers in Gensis is a Christian organization behind the park — and Todd Cassidy of the Kentucky tourism board, Zovath said complications have delayed the project.

“Todd, we actually considered an official ground breaking earlier this month but too many complexities got in the way so we ended up putting it on hold until everything is worked out,” Zovath wrote, according to the report. “Funding is progressing, a little slower due to the very slow economy.”

And that’s about what Zovath told TPM. “The fundraising is going as well as we can expect it to go with the economy the way is it,” he told TPM. Zovath said fundraising is likely to pick up once construction of the theme park starts. That’s what happened when the group broke ground on the Creation Museum, another Answers in Genesis project in Kentucky, he said.

As LEO Weekly reports, the groundbreaking has been delayed … and delayed. Zovath told TPM he isn’t sure when it will finally happen. With permit issues, it could be several months after the construction is approved before ground would be broken, he said. Ideally, Zovath said, construction would start sometime in 2012.

So far, $4.3 million has been raised for the project. The group hopes to raise $24.5 million in all. That’s quite a ways to go. Some critics of the project have questioned whether it will be ever built. Asked what would happen to the donations if the park never materializes, Zovath couldn’t say. “You’d have to contact donors,” he said. But he’s still optimistic. “It’s going to be a fun project,” he said.

The Ark Encounter is quite a project: it will include a full-sized wooden ark, a “walled city much like what 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 state of Kentucky has also approved tax incentives to help offset the park’s cost.

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