Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that Ark Encounter LLC and Answers in Genesis (AiG), which is widely known for its Creation Museum, will begin construction of a Noah's Ark tourist attraction in his state.
And according to reports coming out of the state, Kentucky taxpayers may end up subsidizing the park.
The 160-acre religious theme park, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014 in northern Kentucky, will contain a "full-sized" replica of Noah's Ark in addition to a walled city, live animal shows, a children's interactive play area, a replica of the Tower of Babel, and a first-century Middle Eastern village.
"We are excited to join with the Ark Encounter group as it seeks to provide this unique, family-friendly tourist attraction to the Commonwealth," Gov. Beshear said. "Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and with the estimated 900 jobs this project will create, I am happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region."
A study conducted by the America's Research Group found the Ark Encounter may attract 1.6 million visitors in the first year and is expected to employ up to 900 staff.
"We are very pleased to be a part of this new project,” said Ken Ham, president and founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. "Answers in Genesis has been blessed to see the Creation Museum host over one million guests in three years. Based on our experience and success operating the large, state-of-the-art Creation Museum, our board believes the time is right to partner with the Ark Encounter in building a full-scale Noah's Ark."
Answers in Genesis, who will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the whole park, is seeking performance-based tax incentives for the park.
"We have reviewed this from a legal standpoint and the application complies with our laws," Gov. Beshear said. "There is nothing even remotely unconstitutional about a for-profit organization coming in and investing $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky and bring tourism to Kentucky."
Answers in Genesis is best known for its Creation Museum, which opened in Petersburg, Kentucky in 2007. The museum teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and "brings the pages of the Bible to life" by showing "children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden's Rivers."
"It certainly sounds as if the mechanism for supporting a particular religious dogma would violate the establishment of religious prohibitions in the state and federal constitutions, but there may be slippery ways this could pass muster," Louisville attorney David Tachau told the Courier-Journal.
Under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, the state could subsidize up to 25 percent of the park, the Courier-Journal says.
"The people of Kentucky didn't elect me governor to debate religion," Gov. Beshear said. "They elected me governor to create jobs. That's what we're doing here, and that's what we're going to continue to do."
Below is video of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announcing the development of the theme park, with an introduction by Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis.
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