This just showed up in Newsweek, the second-largest news weekly magazine in the US: Noah’s Ark Rises in Kentucky, Dinosaurs and All. You already know most of what they report, but you’ll appreciate their style. It’s likely to infuriate ol’ Hambo. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Imagine the Titanic minus the smokestacks, framed out of timber rather than iron. Imagine that instead of a doomed ocean liner bustling with well-dressed elites, it’s home to 2,000 seasick animals, a handful of teenage dinosaurs and one patriarchal family headed by a 500-year-old man bent on saving the world. Cultures all over the globe share the legend of Noah’s Ark, but this summer one especially enthusiastic Christian ministry will try to convince you that it looked exactly like this — dinosaurs and all—when it opens its biblical theme park. Its pièce de résistance is a 510-foot representation of Noah’s giant boat. (OK, the Titanic was bigger, but you get the idea.)
That’s not the way Hambo would describe it. Then Newsweek says:
The masterminds behind this monument to theological devotion are fundamentalist Christian organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) and its Australian-born president, Ken Ham. For the unfamiliar, Ham, AiG and their followers believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and disparage anyone who doesn’t. Dubbed the Young Earth Creationists, they maintain that the Earth and its universe were created 6,000 years ago in six days, as described in Scripture. And while they argue that their worldview deserves as much classroom time in public schools as science, for now they are focused on molding young minds through their oft-mocked Petersburg, Kentucky, Creation Museum and the forthcoming Ark Encounter theme park in nearby Williamstown.
Try to picture ol’ Hambo reading this article. Wonderful, isn’t it? Let’s read on:
Despite many competitive advantages, including buying a 99-acre parcel of land from the city for a mere dollar, the $101 million project has been plagued for five years by setbacks that include a lack of public support, unfruitful fundraising efforts and a bitter lawsuit over $18 million in tax incentives that the state withheld due to church-state separation concerns. But none of this has discouraged Ham, who says his ark could draw as many as 2 million visitors in its first year, although such projections are highly disputed.
Good journalism, huh? We’ll skip a lot so we can focus on the financing. You’re probably going to read it all for yourself anyway. This is interesting:
In order to incentivize building there, Williamstown declared the ark site and the surrounding 1.25 miles a tax increment financing (TIF) district, which is a fancy way of saying that over the next 30 years, 75 percent of sales and real estate taxes generated within the area will go back to fund Ark Encounter. There’s also an employment tax for workers in the district, but more on that shortly.
Wait ’til we get to the employment tax gimmick! Newsweek continues:
The money used to build Ark Encounter came from donations of almost $30 million, plus $62 million in high-risk, unrated municipal bonds backed by the project’s future revenues. If Ark Encounter never makes significant profits (and bond documents warn that it may not), neither the city nor AiG is on the hook for the bond money.
Sounds like a good deal! Okay, here’s the news about employment tax, which we didn’t know:
[A]ccording to Mike Zovath, chief actions officer for AiG and Ark Encounter, the millions in tax dollars that will be rebated through the formation of the aforementioned TIF district could go toward repaying the bonds and funding future attractions. What neither of them [Zovath and Hambo] mentioned in conversations with me or in their many blog posts on the subject is that, as part of the TIF agreement, employees working within the TIF district will be subject to a 2 percent employment tax on gross wages for the next 30 years. In other words, $2 out of every $100 earned by people working at or around the park will go directly to paying off the attraction. So while tax dollars might not actually have been used to build the ark, a boatload that would otherwise go back into the community will instead be used to pay off Ark Encounter’s debt.
Then there are a few paragraphs about Hambo’s litigation over sales tax rebates that the state won’t pay him. That’s old news to our regular readers, so we’ll quit here. The fun part will be when Hambo reacts to this. We’ll be watching for it.
Update: Hambo posted about the Newsweek article here: Newsweek or “News-Weak”?
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