Dismal Attendance at Hambo’s Ark Encounter

Two of our clandestine operatives have sent us links to stories about the low number of people showing up to see Ark Encounter, the latest creationist tourist attraction by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and other creationist enterprises.

A scan of our previous posts reveals that according to ol’ Hambo’s estimated attendance figures, the ark should attract 1,400,000 visitors a year — see Why No News about Ark Ticket Sales?. That means the ark should be getting over 3,800 ticket-buying visitors a day, and presumably that would be even more on weekends. Yet on the most recent Sunday, the parking lot was almost empty.

The video above this post is three minutes long and it has no sound, so it’s safe for work. It purports to be drone footage taken a couple of days ago, on Sunday, 28 August, a day when massive crowds of drooling creationists would be expected to gaze in wonder as they tour ol’ Hambo’s “exact replica” of Noah’s Ark.

The video was posted by “microwizard,” who says it was made at 11:30 on Sunday morning. According to Hambo’s website, Ark Encounter Park Hours, the ark is open for visitors at noon on Sunday — presumably so the good folks can go to church first. Thirty minutes before noon is when crowds should be expected to start showing up.

But as the video reveals, there aren’t any crowds. Could that be the reason ol’ Hambo has never posted actual figures for the number of visitors who show up and pay the $40 admission charge — plus another $10 for parking?

Something seems to be terribly wrong at Hambo’s creationist wonderland. What could it be?

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31 responses to “Dismal Attendance at Hambo’s Ark Encounter

  1. A buddy of mine went to the Museum with his family. He’s a true believer, not just of seven-day creationism, but of Ken Ham’s exact flavor of creationism, and he said that it was his family and perhaps a dozen others, and that they went through the place in a matter of a few hours, leaving before dinner.

    He was not impressed.

  2. Nothing wrong at all. It’s exactly what we predicted all along. Compare to real attractions like Six Flags who also struggle for attendance, who in their right mind is going to pay $50 to see a building that looks like a boat and a mangey petting zoo?

    The pandering twits in Kentucky State Government should be the ones on the hook for this religious boondoggle, and the entire bureau of tourism should be sacked. I realize the power of pandering, but this sort of government giveaway is pure malfeasance.

    On the bright side, we can look forward to staff layoffs (which, ironically, may actually save souls!) and Hambo grumbling as operating costs start to eat into his profits. Hambo has run out of Summer. School is in session and as Fall and Winter descend on the hills of Kentucky bringing rain and sleet, we can look forward to many days of ZERO attendance. I gave old Hambo a year to declare bankruptcy of the Encounter, but I might have to revise that estimate down.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    I was struck by how far the parking is from the ‘attraction’. I get why they might have done that, but I’m sure the bus-ride to the ark isn’t as anticipatory as the ride on the monorail to Disneyworld. More a feeling of being trapped, I imagine.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    Checking the trolls at Youtube, we get some useful info: “They all belong to employees. According to the website the place doesn’t even open until noon on Sundays and OP said he filmed this at 11:30am on a Sunday.”

  5. I counted about 100 cars in the lot and 9 buses, but only 2-3 running. Hambo probably runs the thing with a staff of about 30, guessing the number of ticket takers, drivers, security dudes, snackbar staff, janitors, guides and odds & sods. Probably runs him $3-4000 per day. 100 cars yielding about 200 visitors brings in $9000. Unless it costs a lot more to operate, and I’m not factoring in utilities, communication and other expenses, anything less than 100 visitors/day would put Hambo under water.

    Ironic, that!

  6. You picked the wrong day to watch for crowds! They can’t go on Sunday as that is a sin! They are suppose to be at church or at home resting! Says so right here in this here book o’BS!!

  7. “They all belong to employees.

    OMG, it’s full of stars! Oh, wrong movie.

    That being the case the overhead would be much higher if I underestimated the number of employees. Google teaches that theme parks cost about 80% of revenue to operate.

    With a staff of 60 old Hambo would need about 200 visitors a day to break even. In any case, he’s probably getting 5% of what he estimated for daily visitors.

    Not surprising to me, of course, based on my disdain for petting zoos!

  8. I admit it is rather churlish of me, but I was rather hoping the drone footage had been taken by an MQ-9 Reaper and would feature a more thrilling ending…

  9. michaelfugate

    It is odd that no one comments on attendance – one would think local newspapers would say something in the month and a half since it opened. One article had some comments on nearby motels, but no real numbers. Just a vague mention that rooms are fuller than in the past. Is the ark already old news?

  10. @docbill1351
    It may not be as bleak financially as it seems. Hammy still gets his 2% tif from nearby businesses. If they do well, he gets paid. I’m sure there are gas stations and convenience stores in the area.

  11. docbill1351 says: “Hambo probably runs the thing with a staff of about 30, guessing the number of ticket takers, drivers, security dudes, snackbar staff, janitors, guides and odds & sods. Probably runs him $3-4000 per day. 100 cars yielding about 200 visitors brings in $9000. Unless it costs a lot more to operate, and I’m not factoring in utilities, communication and other expenses, anything less than 100 visitors/day would put Hambo under water.”

    His costs must be higher. I’m sure he pays a lot for advertising and insurance, for example. And what about the interest on the bond issue?

  12. Drone footage when it is closed isn’t going to give even a snap shot impression of attendance. If only taking one drone movie I’d check at the middle of the day on a summer Saturday and extrapolate down from there.
    That said, the Ark Experience probably isn’t getting very good crowds. Look for Hambo to start running specials for the fall or maybe Christmas. If you’re reading this Hambo, better lower the price down to $25/person or watch your ark dream go down the drain.

  13. Neighborhood lumber yards will be getting some competition as Hambo begins to dismantle his boat and sell off the wood. He might actually make a little profit however as he can claim the wood pieces, and fragments, are relics and part of [his] original replica ark.

  14. michaelfugate

    Mt Ararat was actually in Kentucky…

  15. Is locating the massive parking lot a very long hike from the actual sort of boat-like thingy a result of Intelligent Design ™?

  16. michaelfugate

    This article could have provided numbers, but doesn’t. Ham claims attendance is good, but doesn’t give a number. Why didn’t the author press him on actual attendance?


  17. Well, Docbill, there’s always the possibility that rain and sleet will be seen by the believers as kind of atmospheric, creating a nice sort of flood ambience and driving attendance through the firmament. Or maybe monkeys will fly out of Ham’s (completely unrelated to them) butt. It’s hard to tell.

  18. Martin Schneier

    I’m “between jobs” and plan on going to see the woody next week. I’ll report what the attendance looks like during normal open hours.

  19. Let’s have some pity with Ol’ Hambo. To sooth him I’ll provide him with an excellent occasion to some good old fashioned rage, with foam on his lips and everything.


  20. Right. I figured five years before Ark Encounter LLC (a for-profit wholly owned subsidiary of the non-profit Crosswater Canyon, which is in turn wholly owned by Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis) filed for bankruptcy. I think I might have been overly sanguine about its prospects, going on this – but the only real way to know is to get more data. The only prediction in doubt, though, is the length of the period before it all goes down the crapper. It is going there, big time.

    Ham might keep the venture, ahem, afloat for a while by infusions of cash from his other operations, but unless he really has come to believe the con himself (always a danger to the scam artist) he is so not going to put his own dough on the line.

    I stick with my original prediction: our boy Ken will see which way the wind is blowing, hear the Call to minister in fields and pastures new, entrust the operation to others, get out quick, and be shocked – shocked! – to hear from afar that the whole thing has gone bum-up big time, leaving the stockholders and the county and the State holding the bag, along with anybody damfool enough to have started a business in the area, counting on the visitor traffic, as Ken told them to do.

    But Kenny? He and his family will be far away in corporate space in perfect safety and comfort.

    Only I think maybe Kenny hasn't calculated far enough ahead. True, he and his lawyers will certainly have insulated him as effectively as the law allows from the disaster, and I expect that he'll get away with it on a legal basis. But that won't save his "ministry", which is, basically, shilling nonsense to loons on the interwebs. The loons might be stupid, but quite often they know what side their bread's buttered on, and Ken and his operations are going to be, as we say in my country, a bit on the nose, even with them.

    That's if the Ark Park trainwreck is publicized enough. I shall do my small best to ensure that it is.

  21. It would appear that I have stuffed up the formatting, although I can’t see how, in my last. Save me, oh great Hand!

    [*Voice from above*] As you wish, my son.

  22. @Dave Luckett:

    It appears that you typed a ) instead of a >. Look above after “shocked!” You typed “</em)".

  23. The loons will always pay. Hambo will live a life of luxury. Just look at prosperity gospel preacher Osteen in Houston. He lives in several many-millions of dollars mansions and still the rubes throw their last $20 at him. The turkey pulls in about $600K a WEEK in cash and who knows how much in pledges.

    Yes, there’s money in the TARD! Lots of it.

  24. Buying and selling salvation has always been a successful business (scam) venture.

  25. I do not know whether the ark is insured but if I was an insurance company I would not touch it. Being wood, it would suffer major damage in the event of a lightning strike and may well finish up totally destroyed by fire. There it is, in an exposed, elevated, position without any sign of lightning protection. It would be difficult to protect it properly because of its shape; it would need a system of interconnected Franklin rods along its top, rising well above the stem and stern posts; this would have to be connected to multiple vertical conductors going directly to ground; the safety of people standing in the vicinity of the grounding points would be a major consideration.

  26. I’m thinking about why Hambo wouldn’t make the ark visible form the parking lot. Pretty simple, it would dilute the WOW factor if you could see it as you get out of your car when you park it. Of course seeing an ark sized building in this day and age isn’t that uncommon, but for Kentucky it might be enough to impress.

  27. Two new videos on Youtube by same poster showing poor attendance even on busy Saturday and Friday of this last week.

  28. I’m of the mind that Ken Ham had long realized the Ark Encounter was going to be a disaster but had no choice but to continue pushing the project after all the hype he had put into it. My guess is at the start he like the suckers of Williamstown was very optimistic about the Ark becoming a financial windfall. After how successful he was at raising $27 million for the Creation Museum and the fact that it actually generated revenue for a good couple of years, Ken decided to double down by going for an even more ambitious money making project, thinking the same folks who had been pumping money into the Creation Museum would be just as willing to fork out good money to his latest venture. Unfortunately for Ken he had severely miscalculated his prospects. He didn’t seem to realize for instance that his targeted demographic are made up of extremely gullible fools. Many of whom don’t exactly have high income jobs due to lack of an education. And while Ken’s flock has always been willing to give him what little they have in donations and magazine subscriptions from afar, not many of them will go to the trouble to go cross-country to pay a hefty fee to see his wooden box of stuffed animals. And those who are taken in by the hype will only be going there once in their life and unlikely to return given how unimaginative and dull Ken’s brand of creationism really is. Hence why his museum has been in decline for years.

  29. I have to wonder if it’s fair to take a video the one hour out of the whole week that you can be sure most Christians won’t be there and call that representative.

  30. I see an insurance fire in the near future. (maybe a lightning strike?)

  31. What would be interesting would be water damage.