You know all about the proposed Ark Encounter project. It’s the latest creationist extravaganza of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG), and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
The last time we wrote about this was Ken Ham’s Latest News About the Ark. That was a few weeks ago. There’s still been no ground-breaking. Instead, ol’ Hambo staged a symbolic “Hammer and Peg” ceremony inside the Creation Museum.
We have some news today from the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum). Their headline is: Tax incentives sought for Noah’s Ark theme park. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Why does Hambo need tax incentives? Surely, it’s enough that his project is divinely inspired. Anyway, here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Ark Encounter will return to Frankfort [the state capital] on Tuesday to seek — for a second time — state approval of tax incentives for its proposed Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County. Three years ago, the group won approval of incentives for its entire $172.5 million project, but because of funding problems it withdrew that application and now is seeking approval for a $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It’s the secularists’ fault!
And it [Hambo's outfit] expects preliminary approval Tuesday from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority and plans to break ground next month. “We can begin construction as soon as we get preliminary approval,” said Mike Zovath, Ark Encounter’s project coordinator. “And we expect to get that because the project fits all the criteria for the tourism act.”
What kind of tax incentives is Hambo looking for? Let’s read on:
Ark Encounter is applying to participate in a program that allows eligible tourism attractions a rebate of 25 percent of the sales tax they collect on admission tickets, souvenirs, food and other things over 10 years. For this application the rebates would be as much as $18.25 million.
Sweet deal! The droolers visit the Ark, buy their tickets, pay the sales tax, and ol’ Hambo’s group gets a kick-back from the state. We continue:
The incentive program’s rules say that if preliminary approval is granted, the authority would then select a consultant — at Ark Encounter’s expense — to study the project to see if it meets the program’s criteria, including that the project get at least 25 percent of its visitors from out of state after four years and having an overall positive impact on the state budget.
We can (to some extent) understand that Kentucky would pay a kick-back for sales taxes collected from out of state droolers, but if they’re only going to be 25% (or whatever) of those who visit the ark, then why doesn’t the kick-back apply only to that portion of the taxes collected? Here’s more:
Ark Encounter, a venture of Answers in Genesis, which developed and runs the controversial Creation Museum in Boone County, cleared all of those hurdles and won final approval from the authority in May 2011 for its entire proposal. Under the incentive program’s rules, it had three years to start work. But as that deadline approached, it withdrew its application for the entire park and re-applied — seeking approval of just the $73 million first phase.
In other words, ol’ Hambo didn’t succeed in meeting the original deadline, so he’s starting all over again. Moving along:
The project was delayed, Zovath said, “because funding was slower than we’d anticipated. It was all about funding.” Sufficient financing was in hand by early this year for the first phase, he said. Construction of other phases on the 800-acre site is still planned over the next 12 years.
We’re shocked — shocked! — that funding was slower than anticipated. But now they’re ready for the first phase. Another excerpt:
Zovath emphasized the first phase includes the feature that consultants say will draw the crowds — the 510-foot wooden ark. “That’s the main feature, the main attraction,” Zovath said.
Okay, but everyone wants to know — when will the ark start generating ticket sales … ah, we mean, when will it be open for visitors? We’re told:
He said the park will open about two years after construction begins. “We should open mid-summer of 2016,” he said.
It’s gonna take two years to build the thing? It’ll be difficult waiting that long. But will the state come through with the tax goodies? That’s not yet certain. The next part of the story is about some wicked group that seems obsessed with separation of church and state. They may start litigation to prevent the tax incentives. Oh, after that there’s some information about ol’ Hambo’s bond issue:
The Ark Encounter website says $14.8 million has been raised so far toward a goal of $29.5 million.
Last year Williamstown offered $62 million in bonds on behalf of the Christian group. The city isn’t responsible for repaying the unsecured bonds, which are to be repaid from park revenues. Partly because of a lackluster response to the offering, the bond sale was extended late last year.
Zovath said, “We needed to hit a certain target — about $45 million in project funds from the bonds. … We hit that target in late February.” In order to reach the target, Zovath said Answers in Genesis itself bought “probably between $2.5 million to $3 million” of the bonds.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Ol’ Hambo had to buy some of his own bonds in order to keep the whole thing from collapsing! But we’re still confused. First they say they raised $14.8 million. Then they say they raised $45 million from bond sales. Which is it? Or is it both?
Nothing is very clear, but the big thing right now is getting the state to come through again with the tax incentives. And ol’ Hambo may have to deal with some lengthy litigation along the way. Will the ark ever get built? Stay tuned to this blog!
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