SLIDESHOW: Date set for opening of 'Ark Encounter' park featuring life-sized Noah's ark
WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) -- July 7, 2016. That's the launch date for the huge representation of Noah's Ark being built in northern Kentucky.
Construction is moving towards the July 7 opening despite a flood of legal and political controversy.
“And Noah went in and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him into the ark.”
That's Genesis 7:7, the account of Noah and his family entering the Ark, as read during the announcement Thursday of the opening date. That verse helped point the Ark Encounter's developers to the 7/7 opening.
“Genesis 7:7 - So, on 7/7/2016, we will allow the public to enter the Ark,” said Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.
Ham says the massive $90 million project will have a $4 billion dollar economic impact for the state over 10 years, creating 20,000 jobs and attracting some 2-million visitors a year.
“It's certainly going to be one of the biggest attractions even in the world, and certainly one of the biggest Christian attractions in the world,” Ham told WDRB News.
The state initially approved $18 million dollars in tourism sales tax credits for the project, then withdrew the offer, citing concerns about the Ark's religious theme and potential hiring practices.
But Governor-elect Matt Bevin favors reversing that decision.
“There's no reason to discriminate against the Ark park, and that's essentially what this administration has done,” told WDRB News.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, whose district includes the Ark, says he'll push the new governor to restore the rebate.
“This is a wonderful tourist attraction that qualifies under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act. This commonwealth needs to keep its promise to Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter,” he said.
But the Ark Encounter is suing the state, and Ham says he prefers to let the matter play out in court.
“Because we do see it as a free exercise of religion issue, and we see it as setting a precedent,” said Ham.
Meanwhile, construction is moving quickly with traditional Amish woodworkers using modern techniques to build the 510-foot structure to biblical proportions.
“It's a very complicated schedule, but it's very realistic,” said Ham.
To accommodate the huge crowds expected at the opening, the Ark will be open for extended hours, selling both day and night tickets for at least the first 40 days and 40 nights.
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