Ken Ham still doesn’t get it

Ken Ham is complaining bitterly about the newspaper article that showed his attendance estimates for the Ark Park are unlikely. He’s reduced to nonsensical whines about persecution, and acts as if he’s baffled about the criticisms.

The article raises a question: why is the Courier-Journal even concerned with possible attendance at the Ark? If the attraction does not meet its projected figures, the state government and its citizens are not impacted—except positively, in that the attraction will still produce state sales tax to benefit Kentucky and its citizens regardless of the attendance. So why the paper’s concern? Where is the story? Ultimately, what is the article’s author, an “investigative” reporter, supposedly investigating here? If backers of a tourist attraction like an amusement park with thrill rides would also want to locate in Kentucky and its feasibility study showed 1.6 million guests the first year, would the paper also “investigate”?

Poor dumb Ken. I’ll try to explain.

Even without considering the finances, people are right to be concerned about the construction of another exhibit dedicated to ignorance in the state. It harms their reputation, it is bad for education, and it can have long-term consequences for the economy that are not good. Do you really want to be known as the state with the really stupid workforce?

This is not an automatic win situation for the state, no matter how Ham tries to spin it. The state will be investing resources in this project, and while Ken Ham seems unconcerned if the actual attendance is much less than the estimate, the state should be: that affects the economic viability of the project. Granting millions of dollars in incentives to a big theme park that flops is not good for the state.

If Answers in Genesis were not looking for state money and expecting the state to expand the highways and other infrastructure projects, and was the sole contributor to the expenses, there wouldn’t be as much concern about the funny numbers in their feasibility study…but they aren’t alone. They’re looking to drag down other investors with a scheme built on unreliable numbers.

And yes, if a non-religious group showed up in the state and asked for a $50 million handout to build their theme park, I’m sure the paper would investigate. Dodgy schemes with a poor record of success are always ripe for investigative reporting.

Ham ought to read this opinion piece. It lays out the facts very clearly.

In the latest shoe to drop, Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson wrote in Sunday’s editions that a half-dozen theme-park experts find that the developers’ estimates of 1.6 million annual visitors to the Ark park are wildly optimistic.

They note that Kentucky Kingdom, which is now closed but hopes to reopen in 2012, and Holiday World in Southern Indiana have never attracted that many people, despite being long-standing institutions and offering a broader appeal. Ark Encounter would actually be less of an amusement park than an outdoor museum to a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the belief that the world was created in six days as recently as 6,000 years ago and that humans co-existed with dinosaurs.

To attract 1.6 million visitors, the park — again, absent significant tourist facilities — would have to attract four times as many visitors as the nearby Creation Museum.

The record elsewhere is not encouraging. Bible Park USA, whose two proposals to build biblical-story parks in Tennessee were rejected, is exploring Southern Kentucky sites, also with state tax incentives. Holy Land USA, which opened in Virginia in 1972, closed in 2009. Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Fla., struggled with declining attendance and rising costs and debt until it was sold to the nation’s largest religious broadcaster. It gets a little over 200,000 visitors a year.

Indeed, the saturated theme-park market and the depressed economy make times tough for any new park. The most recent large amusement park, the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., closed five months after opening in 2008 and failed again the following year under new management, leaving investors, contractors and vendors in the lurch.

That’s reality. It says that the extravagant expectations of the feasibility study Ken Ham’s pal scribbled up (and which they are still keeping secret) are unlikely to be met, and yet another theme park with a very narrow focus is a poor investment. I know he’s not used to dealing with facts, but other people are.

Of course, I don’t care much about the economics. I’m more concerned that this is yet another effort to put together a giant exercise in miseducation for the state, where a small group of ignorant people are the recipients of large amounts of money that they use to lie to the public. The Ark story is nonsense, it never happened and couldn’t happened, and building expensive monuments to fairy tales sends a cracked and damaging message to the citizenry.