Aqua Buddhists need not apply: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) on Wednesday unveiled some interesting tourism plans for his state, announcing a plan to construct a “creationist theme park.”
A joint project between Beshear and Answers in Genesis — a Christian organization that also built a similar attraction, the Creation Museum — the park will reportedly cost at least $150 million and create 900 jobs, according to the news release.
Beshear’s spokesperson Kerri Richardson declined to comment beyond what was in her office’s news release on the project.
The amusement park, named 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.
Here are a couple sketches of the proposed theme park, from the Ark Encounter website:
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the theme park will seek tax incentives, under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, which could subsidize up to 25 percent of the project. The state, then, returns the sales tax on costs such as admission, food and gift sales.
Senior VP of Answers in Genesis Mike Zovath told the Courier-Journal that Kentucky officials have told him the proposal for tax incentives “looks good,” and that the park could draw up 1.6 million visitors a year.
But what about potential complications between the separation of church and state and the eligibility of tax incentives?
Gil Lawson, of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet told TPM the law that establishes this tax incentive is neutral. “It’s not designed to favor or discriminate in any way,” he said. “So we look at these applications without any regard to religious issues. They stand on their own, and it depends on if it’s adequate financing and does all the things the applicant says it will do. Religion does not play a role in this.”
Watch Beshear introduce the project here.