Ark Park Struggling to Find Funding

Even with tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state of Kentucky, the folks behind the creation museum are having serious problems raising the money necessary to break ground on the Noah’s Ark park they want to build about 40 miles away. And part of the reason is that the popularity of the museum has dropped precipitously.

The group initially announced that it expected to break ground on the park in 2011, before eventually pushing that date back to 2014. But in June, in an interview in the Creation Museum’s “Noah’s Cafe,” Ark Encounter vice president Michael Zovath told Yahoo News that the group no longer has a date in mind for the construction to begin. It has been unable to raise sufficient amounts of money, despite pleas to the Creation Museum’s visitors to donate to the project.

“Fundraising is really tough,” Zovath said, blaming the recession. “It’s not moving so fast as we hoped.” The private LLC that is building the park would need to raise another $20 million before it can break ground, he said. So far, it’s taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

To add to the bad news, the Creation Museum is having its lowest attendance year yet. Last fiscal year, 280,000 people visited, compared to 404,000 the first year it opened in 2007. Zovath thinks that potential visitors have been less willing to travel to the museum because of the poor economy.

That’s a huge drop, over 30% in one year. I would suggest it’s because, once you’ve seen the place once, why would you go back? It’s not like it’s a real museum, where new exhibits would teach new things that you didn’t know; the message is going to be exactly the same no matter what.

44 comments on this post.
  1. jamessweet:

    As much as I’d like to blame other factors, I think they are right that the dropoff in the Creation Museum is largely due to the economy. For one thing, it depended on a lot of people coming from out of state, so that’s a potentially expensive trip for people…

  2. Gregory in Seattle:

    Actually, that would be a 70% drop in 4 or 5 years, from the year it opened in 2007 to whatever period it’s in now.

    Anyway, I strongly suspect that the good showing in the museum’s initial year involved intelligent, rational people visiting to see what insanity the creationists had cooked up. We came, we saw, we laughed, and have had no reason to go back.

  3. jerthebarbarian:

    Who is REALLY all that interested in a creation museum? Two groups – die-hard fundamentalist evangelical creationists who see this as an educational experience for their kids and people who want to laugh at creationist thinking and see just how nutty it is. And for that first group you’re talking about the committed believers – not the folks who answer carefully worded poll questions in a way that conforms with their religious upbringing, but the kind of people who take their kids out of public school because they’re afraid of them learning something counter to their religion in their classes. These are extremely narrow groups to cater to. And it isn’t like planning a family vacation to Petersberg, KY gives you a whole lot else to do (which I suspect is why they wanted the Noah’s Ark Park – to give that first crowd a reason to plan a family vacation in the area instead of just counting on people making pilgrimages out of tribal support for the endeavor).

  4. raven:

    So far, it’s taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

    I’d be a bit skeptical of that claim of $17 million in private investments. They might have some vague promise of $17 million or a promise of the last $17 million or something.

    I’ve never understood why anyone would “donate” to a for profit theme park.

    I would suggest it’s because, once you’ve seen the place once, why would you go back?

    It’s not a real museum. It’s more a monument to the power of modern plastics to make anything look vaguely real.

    My thought is the same. It’s static and why spend money to look at the same plastic dinosaurs over and over. Especially when you are already born again, saved, and going to heaven.

  5. eric:

    While the tax breaks obviously aren’t hurting KY (because there’s nothing to tax yet), I believe the state has already started spending actual dollars on highway improvement leading to the park location. Looks like they are buying a road to nowhere.

    Now, I suppose it isn’t a terrible thing for the state to create road construction jobs during a recession. But FFS, at least improve roads that will provide a long-term benefit to the state. Like the ones to/around Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, etc.

  6. oranje:

    Is everything buy-one-get-one-free at Noah’s Cafe?

  7. Bronze Dog:

    On repetition:

    My family visited Disney World twice when I was a kid. I was really disappointed that EPCOT hadn’t changed some of the stuff they had. One example that comes to mind was an arcade they had with a big multiplayer Indy car racing game. The first time I went there, the 3D! polygon graphics were top of the line stuff, especially with eight or so players in the same race. A few years later, it wasn’t so impressive. I think I had Starfox on my SNES at the time, which was in the same ballpark, graphically speaking. As a kid, I saw technology marching on in my everyday life while the E(?) Planned Community Of Tomorrow stood still.

    So, just on that pragmatic level, I definitely see the problem with an unchanging pseudo-museum. About the only reason I can imagine parents going back is to expose their next batch of kids to it, and it doesn’t help that it’s essentially Creationist copypasta in diorama format. The kids would probably ooo and ah at the saddled dinosaurs for a while and then get bored.

    Whenever I go to a real museum, there’s always something new on display that features things I didn’t know about, whether it’s weaponry of ancient cultures, some species of dinosaur I didn’t know about, or finding out just how small Lucy really was by looking at the actual fossil.

  8. Don Quijote:

    Obviously they are not praying hard enough to the big CEO in the sky.

  9. timpayne:

    Better yet Eric@5, they could build some new roads around Mayfield where a proposed Mosque was rejected – not because of Christian bigotry of course, but because of all the traffic problems it would have created.

  10. raven:

    The creation museum really needs to upgrade their facility.

    The need a nightclub, bars, rock music amphitheater, waterpark, rides, and a casino. Especially the casino, got to have that one.

  11. d cwilson:

    You’d think gawd would just miracle them all the funding they’d need.

  12. Ray Ingles:

    Over the last couple weeks I’ve had to drive down into Ohio several times, and saw a billboard advertising the Creation Museum ‘only 267 miles further’. Sure, it’s schadenfreude, but reading that story makes me feel better.

  13. Bronze Dog:

    The creation museum really needs to upgrade their facility.

    The need a nightclub, bars, rock music amphitheater, waterpark, rides, and a casino. Especially the casino, got to have that one.

    With blackjack! And hookers! In fact, forget the Creationist museum!

    [/Bender]

  14. bbgunn:

    The private LLC that is building the park would need to raise another $20 million before it can break ground, he said. So far, it’s taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

    Does Ken Hamm and his ilk get to keep that $5.6 million if the park never gets built? Not a bad return for putting in the time fleecing their gullible flock.

  15. eric:

    The need a nightclub, bars, rock music amphitheater, waterpark, rides, and a casino. Especially the casino, got to have that one.

    It wouldn’t even be too difficult to make it thematically appropriate. They can call that section the “before the flood” area. You visit all the “horrors” that made God decide to commit genocide. Then you walk through a symbolic waterfall into the Ark area.

    Heck, if the poker tables at the place take a high hourly rake at the low stakes tables, Ed might even agree it needs to be smited. :)

  16. Zeno:

    I like good-news items like this!

  17. Sastra:

    Ray Ingles #12 wrote:

    Over the last couple weeks I’ve had to drive down into Ohio several times, and saw a billboard advertising the Creation Museum ‘only 267 miles further’.

    “The Creation Museum — only 267 miles further and 267 years behind the times!”

  18. Spanish Inquisitor:

    Anyway, I strongly suspect that the good showing in the museum’s initial year involved intelligent, rational people visiting to see what insanity the creationists had cooked up. We came, we saw, we laughed, and have had no reason to go back.

    And in the process, gave them the false impression that they had a money maker on their hands…

    Bwahahahaha…

  19. tacitus:

    I’ve never understood why anyone would “donate” to a for profit theme park.

    Ken Ham and his cronies are no fools when it comes to prizing donations out of the gullible:

    From the Ark Encounters FAQ:

    How will it be funded?

    The bulk of the Ark Encounter will be built in phases by the limited liability company (LLC). Answers in Genesis is raising $24.5 million in donations and boarding pass sales for its part in the Ark Encounter project to help build an all-wood Ark, the centerpiece and first phase of a whole multi-attraction complex.

    Individuals may make tax-deductible donations through the “Ark Pegs, Planks, & Beams” program, which gives everyone the opportunity to sponsor an actual peg, plank or beam that will be used to build the Ark. Sponsors will receive benefits that include a certificate of authenticity and special invitations to behind-the-scenes tours and grand opening events. Through the Ark website (ArkEncounter.com), all sponsors will have the opportunity to see the general location where their sponsored peg, plank, or beam is located in the Ark.

    Additionally, individuals and families may purchase lifetime boarding passes (not-tax deductible) that will provide lifetime admission to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum and many other benefits. More details are available at ArkEncounter.com.

    So basically, they’ve carved out the full-sized “replica” of Noah’s Ark as some kind of non-profit centerpiece of a for-profit venture and are getting the gullible masses to pay for it through tax-deductible donations.

    But, of course, those donations don’t get you in to see the finished ark and every penny that you and every other visitor spends once you get there goes into the “for-profit” coffers.

    Dubious, at best, but I’m sure the AiG lawyers have everything under control.

  20. Kevin:

    Titanic – 882 feet long. 92 feet wide and 59 feet high from water line to Boat deck.

    The Ark – 515 feet long – 86 feet wide and 52 feet high.

    Plus, a Dutch creationist has already built one. For about $1.5 million. He wants to float it up the Thames for the London Olympics. Of course, someone will probably need to tell him that motors weren’t invented back then, and with no sails or oars — well, going UP the Thames isn’t an option to retain the “replica” status.

  21. Trebuchet:

    To add to the bad news, the Creation Museum is having its lowest attendance year yet. Last fiscal year, 280,000 people visited, compared to 404,000 the first year it opened in 2007. Zovath thinks that potential visitors have been less willing to travel to the museum because of the poor economy.

    Obviously Obama intentionally destroyed the economy just to harm Kenny and his “museum”.

    Does Ken Hamm and his ilk get to keep that $5.6 million if the park never gets built? Not a bad return for putting in the time fleecing their gullible flock.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it has already found its way into their pockets.

  22. Area Man:

    According to the “Museum’s” Wiki page, they were expecting 250,000 visitors in their first year, and surpassed that within 5 months. So it’s not clear that 280,000 is a bad number for them. I have no idea if it’s enough to at least break even, but it’s entirely possible that they’re profiting at that level.

    The Ark Park however looks like a case of their eyes being too big for their stomachs.

  23. Kevin:

    I should also mention that the Dutch creationist’s ark is seaworthy. But since they had to reinforce it with steel — well, there goes the authenticity claim.

  24. tacitus:

    But since they had to reinforce it with steel…

    It’s worse than that, it has a steel hull and was designed that way from the beginning.

  25. ArtK:

    I should also mention that the Dutch creationist’s ark is seaworthy. But since they had to reinforce it with steel — well, there goes the authenticity claim.

    When they heard about the project, speculators bought up all of the gopher wood available, driving prices up. Steel was cheaper.

    </snark>

  26. fifthdentist:

    I wonder how long it took the 600-year-old Noah, his few sons and sons-in-law to build the original using the tools of that time?
    Maybe Noah started it as a toddler and by the time he was 600 it was finished.

  27. anubisprime:

    #22 Area Man

    According to the “Museum’s” Wiki page, they were expecting 250,000 visitors in their first year, and surpassed that within 5 months.

    Do you not think that maybe they lowered expectations deliberately to claim stunning success and proclaim ‘jeebus ain’t dead he be profitable’
    Works well for investors gives ‘em confidence and never does harm to future projects.
    They already know the target audience…that is only finite count and seemingly they are not that well endowed financially…I wonder why?
    They had a damned good idea of the real figures expected before they opened the ‘museum’ ‘piglet is dumb but not stupid!

    The Ark Park however looks like a case of their eyes being too big for their stomachs.

    They were depending on the faithfully deluded to bail them out short term and the rest from commerce and fuckminded rich patrons…it obviously never happened quite as they expected.
    The recession has done for them and that does not look like being over in a jiffy.
    They miscalculated…this development was in ‘piglet’s’ sorry excuse for a mind probably before the ‘museum’ opened doors.
    He might have calculated 5 years to fleece and on to the really big money using the miraculous ‘museum’s profits and ‘possibly’ massaged visitor numbers as collateral.

    Did ‘piglet’ not commission some dubious scenario paper cobbled together by in-house cronies in order to fool the administration and gain tax breaks from the state that involved using inflated attendance and profit figure positive growth year on year..and used the carrot of employment opportunity to local folk…although I thought AiG only paid in kind…food and drink and discount in tickets and the book shop?

    I seem to remember something like so…but not the details.
    If so I would say he is in a deep tar pit without an extraction plan!

  28. Draken:

    More precisely, the actual Ark V2 of Johan Huibers rests on 24 LASH pontoons formerly used by Forest Lines from New Orleans.

    In trying to prove the ancient bible tale, ‘Huibers of Ark’ actually had to admit that a wooden ship that size cannot be made seaworthy, whether it has to sail or only be kept afloat.

    It seems to be ready, by the way. When they visit Copenhagen I’m tempted to have a look. Huibers may be a bit silly, at least he put some effort in his beliefs.

  29. Draken:

    @oranje: Is everything buy-one-get-one-free at Noah’s Cafe?

    Only the unclean snacks. The clean snacks only come in buy 7, get 7 for free.

  30. Doc Bill:

    Using their fundraising bar as a guide, early on they were averaging about $200,000 / week in donations. At that rate, by this time in 2012 they should have $10 million. However, it appears that donations have dropped off, on average, to $38,000 / week. It’s probably a sliding average in that I doubt they’re pulling in $40k / week today.

    From the article and the website it appears that there will be “nothing” to do at the Ark Encounter as they only have one ride and it’s an inside tour of Bible-themed dioramas.

    Sort of like Disney’s Small World ride but hopefully without the musical ear worm!

    The museum, of course, is even worse because it doesn’t change. There are no new exhibits because there’s nothing new under the Sun to exhibit. They are stuck with their Millions of Years NO! versus Bible YES! meme. Unlike a real museum the creation museum will never display anything new. Seen it once, you’re done. No need to make a return trip.

    That said, old Hambo has made a freaking fortune fleecing the faithful (gullible) and, yes, I’d take $40,000 a week in donations thank you very much!

  31. Draken:

    @Sastra, “The Creation Museum — only 267 miles further and 267 years behind the times!”

    Or: “follow highway 267 miles, return in time 267 years”. Which explains why fewer and fewer visitors seem to would been arrived (time travel and verb tenses can be confusing).

  32. Doug Little:

    It’s been a good week with the Higgs news and now this. It could only get better if they never get the donations they need and decide to try and cobble together the park anyway with inferior equipment and materials. It will still be shit but less polished shit than what it would be being fully funded.

  33. alienchaos:

    Why wouldn’t anyone of the people who pretend to enjoy the Creation Museum go back for more of the same. That’s all the science and intellectual adventure most people who care for this crap get. They can go over and over and it all seems new each time just like their own creationist arguments. However, the horror is coming up with an original or insightful thought due to something called research.

  34. timberwoof:

    It sounds like the Creation Museum has jumped the megalodon.

  35. Wren, a Tru Hoppist:

    Eric @ #5

    I have a co-worker who lives off the exit where the park was going to be built. There is no construction going on there. Hopefully Steve Bashear is going to wait until the park breaks ground before actually committing the money to improve the roads there. However, KY is probably just sitting on the money, when there are some schools that could use it instead.

  36. tommykey:

    “Fundraising is really tough,” Zovath said, blaming the recession. “It’s not moving so fast as we hoped.”

    I guess they haven’t been praying hard enough.

  37. Childermass:

    As someone who feared this one might take off, it is a relief to see appears to be, for now, a no go. :-)

    Maybe a bad economy can have a good side. Or maybe the faithful got bored. If they really don’t update exhibits then they have a surprising lack of grasp of the museum “business.” One reason museums have temporary exhibits is to create some excitement which draws attendance which helps keep them funded (and of course helps with their education mandate).

    Spanish Inquisitor @ 18:

    And in the process, gave them the false impression that they had a money maker on their hands…

    It is already been an enormous money maker. They built the damned place using donations. They built it without a mortgage. Thus so long as the funds the “museum” exceed to cost needed to staff it and to keep the lights on, they are in the red. Given that they charge for admission, get donations on top of that, have a bookstore, sell a magazine, and have a cafe, they should easily generate that revenue assuming Ham does not take too much for himself.

  38. Aliasalpha:

    Maybe they could set up a kickstarter, rewards could start with a placemat with piglets face for the $10 tier up to the $1000000 tier where your face gets put on adam/eve!

  39. jnorris:

    Attendance down a third and fund raising faltering, it appears you can only fool some of the people only once.

  40. llewelly:

    Oh, Our Father who art in Heaven,
    wilt thou sit on thine hands,
    and do absolutely nothing
    to save Ken Ham, from his folly,
    as thou didst nothing
    to save Kent Hovind from his folly?
    In the name of Jesus, who is Christ, Amen.

  41. Childermass:

    Myself @ 37: Thus so long as the funds the “museum” exceed to cost needed to staff it and to keep the lights on, they are in the red.

    I really ****ed that up. So long as the funds the “museum” generates exceed the cost of staff, keeping on the lights, etc. then they are in the black.

  42. eric:

    Wren @35 – thanks for the info. Good to know. And yes you’re right, it would seem silly for KY to sit on a big pile of money in the middle of a recession, when it could be used for schools or any number of useful projects.

  43. podkayne:

    Yay schadenfreude! I don’t like to see small businesses fail, but in this case, I can’t help myself.

  44. podkayne:

    He he, survival of the fittest in action, I guess.

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