Ken Ham — Looking for More Tax Breaks

Noah's Ark (by Edward Hicks, 1846)

Noah’s Ark (by Edward Hicks, 1846)

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!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Ken Ham — Looking for More Tax Breaks

  1. How is it constitutional to offer “tax incentives” (read: privileged tax treatment) for such a project? doesn’t this amount essentially to the taxpayers financing a religious project aimed at proselytization?

  2. waldteufel

    It ‘s really no surprise why Noah was so old when he started to build his Ark. I mean, with all the funding issues, bond sales, permits and tax incentives to be acquired, and droolers with pockets to empty. It’s really a miracle that anyone or anything was saved from The Flood. And now, Hambo’s suffering for Jeebus is palpable as he prepares to build his big wooden building vaguely shaped like a boat. The question remains as to Hambo’s abilities as a carnival barker to draw in the droolers in sufficient numbers.

  3. That $14.8 million is from the Ark Encounter begging for money page. Which is bloody hilarious when you consider that first figure of $179 million is what they wanted in total. The donate page went to $29.5 million so they still only got the gullible to stump up half.

  4. I wonder if they will believe the figures, I read they claim 1.5 million visitors in the first year. Really to what is going to be a sh***y zoo in a wooden building, so you can look at small animals, they know they can’t have large ones.

  5. Eric Lipps asks, “How is it constitutional to offer “tax incentives” (read: privileged tax treatment) for such a project? Doesn’t this amount essentially to the taxpayers financing a religious project aimed at proselytization?”

    You are absolutely correct. However, it doesn’t bother the state legislature one bit. They don’t mind violating their oath of office to uphold the constitution when they think “it’s for a good cause”. Unfortunately, this is true in more states than just Kentucky.

  6. Jill Smith

    I do hope there will be pairs of animals of every kind. And I hope that they will arrive at the ark the same way their predecessors did. I would pay any admission price to watch kangaroos swimming the seven seas and polar bears hiking down the interstates.

  7. Zovath seemed to be saying that the start of construction is contingent on preliminary approval of the tax incentives for AiG. In other words, AiG will only build their ark if they get tax incentives.

    It will be interesting to see if Kentucky will demand an end to AiG’s discriminatory hiring and contracting practices in exchange for tax incentives. Right now AiG has a policy of not hiring or doing business with Catholics, Jews, Muslims and anyone else that can not provide a letter of recommendation from a Protestant pastor. They also require all prospective employees to sign the AiG statement of faith.

    AIG had to buy $3 million of the ark bonds to keep the other $42 million in bond sales which essentially means AIG has taken on $3 million in debt. They need $73 million to construct phase one but have only raised $14.8 million in five years and several million dollars of that are advance sales, not donations. When the proceeds from the bonds are added in they are still about $15 million short. It is almost August and they will not start construction until their tax breaks are approved even though they had said they planned to break ground last April. If this thing is built at all, it will not be finished by the summer of 2016.

  8. Ham is leading the KY legislature by the ring/s in their noses. They are so blinded by their religious fervor that they can’t see this obvious fraud before them, suckers that they are, and all the taxpayers of KY will pay for it.

  9. Didn’t the Noah guy build his ark in a lot less than two years? I guess carpentry was a lot easier in the old days. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: that was a myth; this project is allegedly going to be a real building shaped like some sort of ark, with perhaps a few mice to “represent” the various “kinds” of creatures on the mythological one.

  10. I just want to know if it will be insured in the event of a flood.

  11. Totally OT, but more entertaining than Kanned Ham — you can stream Jimmy Buffett’s concert in Detroit live right now (Sat. 10 pm) at for free.

  12. Holding the Line in Florida

    Wasted away again in Margaritaville……. All true Buffettists are in service now. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are our holy days. These are the days the Master plays. Tequila and Rhum flow freely at our communions. When I die I will go to Margaritaville by boat in a Viking funeral!

  13. Possibly one hundred or more millions of dollars to build an imitation ark!
    If Noah lived today, he couldn’t afford to build the real thing!

    Why can’t Admiral Hambo simply build his ark EXACTLY the way the infallible god of the bible himself instructed Noah to do it?

    A 600-year-old man, his wife and kids did it probably in less time than Hambo has been braying about it from the rooftops and they even had to round up dinosaurs to put on the blasted thing – but they got the job done, or so we’ve been told! The Grand Canyon and fossils on the moon prove it!

    Why not let the gazillions of devoted, faithful creationists simply each contribute a little of their free time, labour and materials as a collective group, like the Borg or the Catholics, and it could be done in little time with minimal expense to any individual – like the Amish, in only a matter of a days, rebuilding a neighbour’s house and barn that burned down.

    If the Amish believed a flood was coming, how long would it take them to build an ark?

    I have the notion that collectively, they already have among themselves, all the materials, technical knowledge and other resources required to rather quickly build their ark. But faith and delusion are worth ten times their weight in gold.

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at AIG reading the internal memos flying around right now.

  14. Mike Zovath, Ark Encounter’s project coordinator, makes a startling revelation—

    “[The project and its delay] was all about funding.”

    Oh, I see. Just like every other piece cretinist PR chicanery, then?

    KarlGoldsmith proposes—

    “[Visitors] to what is going to be a sh***y zoo in a wooden building, so you can look at small animals, they know they can’t have large ones.”

    I wouldn’t put it past Hamnoah to populate his overgrown gopher wood litter box with those gauchely garish jerky plastic animatronic replicas of large animals, including dinosaurs.

  15. @Karl: You mean like this?

    From 1:00 on.

  16. @RetiredScienceGuy – You wrote They don’t mind violating their oath of office to uphold the constitution when they think “it’s for a good cause”.
    The Kentucky legislature may say that the “good cause” in this case is tourism — with the related spending on gasoline, restaurant meals, motels, etc. .. economic stimulus of a sort. Even though Ark Encounter has a religious theme, it still could be considered a tourist attraction, like an amusement park or a show venue along the lines of the establishments in Branson, Missouri. All of which leads me to conclude:
    There’s Noah business… like show business.

  17. AIG had to buy $3 million of the ark bonds to keep the other $42 million in bond sales which essentially means AIG has taken on $3 million in debt.

    How is this not a pyramid scheme?

    During the subprime mortgage crisis (and after, I’m sure) the classic fraudulent way for a corporation to hide its debts was to establish a subsidiary, then pass all their debts to the subsidiary right before they have to issue a financial statement totting up their assets and debts. Then, right after the statement is issued, they swap the debt back again.

    Genius of the private sector and all of that. How is Ken Ham not playing this game?

  18. Diogenes asks: “How is this not a pyramid scheme? During the subprime mortgage crisis (and after, I’m sure) the classic fraudulent way for a corporation to hide its debts was to establish a subsidiary, then pass all their debts to the subsidiary …”

    AIG isn’t hiding the debt. The entity running the ark attraction has an ark-load of bond debt, and that’s not hidden at all. Neither the city that issued the bonds, nor AIG, is a guarantor of that debt. The whole burden of repaying the bonds is the responsibility of the company — an AIG subsidiary — that will build the attraction. That’s been disclosed. The only amusing thing is that AIG had to kick in $3 million of its own money (contributed by droolers, no doubt) to buy some of those bonds. Probably not the safest investment, but ol’ Hambo has a different view.

  19. @Hideo Gump: You’re right. By the same token, a big, beautiful new cathedral with fantastic stained glass windows, soaring gothic architecture, statuary sculpted by famous artists, etc., etc. could be considered a “tourist attraction” as well. Should it also be eligible for public funding?

    @mnbo: Impressive ark video! Perhaps those interested in donating to Ham’s land-bound ark would be better advised to buy a plane ticket to Holland, shell out their 12 and-a-half Euros, and board the floating ark that already exists. An added advantage — fake animals don’t poop (although I guess a clever engineer could solve that problem).

  20. docbill1351

    This is not an investment. The bonds were clearly labeled as junk and they have a 100% chance of failure. They only get paid back IF the attraction begins to make a profit. We all know that’s not going to happen.

    Assuming the boondoggle gets built, it will soon become apparent that the “ark” is really a building that looks sort of like a boat, and if they actually put animals inside it will be a barn that looks sort of like a boat.

    I was not raised in a barn or on a farm or in the country. My recollection of petting zoos is that they stink, they are hot and uncomfortable and petting a goat is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    Word of mouth reviews will sink the Ark Encounter faster than an iceberg in the North Atlantic and the park will go bankrupt within a year. Then it will become a condemned blight that Kentucky will have to spend state money to clean up.

    On how to do it right, check out the Holy Land Experience, 4655 Vineland Road, Orlando, Fl. You can Google map it.

    Click to access hle_park_map.pdf

  21. And Heritage USA– the water slides are full of weeds.

    Genius of the private sector and all of that.

  22. I really want it to succeed because once its built, they’ll have to populate it with animals and I can’t wait for the headline that says “Ark runs out of space for two of every kind”.

  23. Armie – And don’t forget that it is 7 of every kind of clean animals! 🙂