Ark Encounter Ticket Sales — What’s Going On?

The last time we wrote about ticket sales at Ark Encounter, the creationist tourist attraction built by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), was a fortnight ago: Dismal Attendance at Hambo’s Ark Encounter. In that post we said:

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.

We still haven’t seen any actual figures, but it appears that some kind of public relations effort is being made to address rumors that the roadside attraction might be a financial fiasco. At the website of television station WLWT, the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, Ohio, not far from ol’ Hambo’s infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum, we read: Riding wave of popularity, Ark Encounter exceeds attendance projections. They have a comments feature. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us:

The Ark Encounter in Williamstown is riding a wave of popularity, exceeding attendance projections after being open for less than three months.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] What’s the source of that information? We’re told:

“It’s really exciting to see all of the people interested in Noah’s ark,” said Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis, which owns the Ark and the Creation Museum.

Yes, it’s exciting. Then they say:

Just nine weeks after the Ark Encounter opened, it has already greeted 300,000 visitors. That’s about the same number as the population of Cincinnati.

Wow — that’s more than 33,000 visitors per week. Is that possible? And were all of those people ticket buyers? If so, and if they were all adults, they each paid $40. That would be an incredible $12 million in revenue for the first 9 weeks. But of course they weren’t all adults. Assuming half were children, whose tickets cost “only” $28 (free if under the age of 5), that’s $4.2 million for 150,000 kiddie tickets and another $6 million for 150,000 adult tickets. Plus $10 for parking — unless they came by bus. So assuming half were kids, and ignoring parking revenue, that’s over $10 million in ticket sales for the first 9 weeks. At least that’s what Mike Zovath’s visitor figure suggests.

Let’s see now, that’s well over $1 million per week, so if things keep going at that rate, the ark will generate over $52 million per year. M’god — they’ll be able to pay off the whole bond issue they used to build the thing in just a couple of years. We’re also ignoring revenue from gift shop sales.

Skipping a few paragraphs that describe how wonderful visitors think the attraction is, we’re told:

The draw to the Ark is also having an impact on the Creation Museum. Zovath said attendance is up 75 percent, and he expects even better results in the coming year. “We’ve got spring break, that’s going to be a huge time,” Zovath said. “It’s huge to the Creation Museum. It’s going to be huge here.”

We don’t know what to believe. Your Curmudgeon is one of those prudent people who prefers verifiable data, rather than mere assertions. We’d like to see the actual sales tax figures, or some authoritative statement from the outfit’s accountants, or maybe something from the underwriters of the bonds that financed the ark’s construction. But nothing like that is being released. Instead, all we have is a claim from the co-founder of Hambo’s creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis. So make of it what you will, dear reader.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Ark Encounter Ticket Sales — What’s Going On?

  1. “We’ve got spring break, that’s going to be a huge time”

    Maybe the Ark Encounter can become the “it” destination for college students on spring break.

  2. Although it was posted at the end of July, this account from someone moderately sympathetic to Ham would seem to bolster your suspicions.

    Now that the actual opening on July 7th is behind us, all the evidence available would lead to the conclusion that the first 40 days will not be nearly as successful as hoped. I have seen no panoramic views of the parking lot since the opening. Instead I see short-range images of cars parked in one section. Instead of the entire ticketing area, only a portion of the ticketing area with lines is shown. Now that I have spent nearly an entire day – the third Friday after opening –at the Ark Encounter I have a new perspective on these photographs. When I pulled in only 50% of the parking lot was even available for parking and the spaces in the available area were at best 50% full later in the day. . . .

    Ken Ham is correct that thousands are visiting the ark daily. However, he needs 4000 people to visit every day of the year to reach the lower range of his projected attendance for the first year. It is not even clear if the opening day resulted in more than 4000 visitors. Ken Ham mentioned on Twitter that the second Saturday after opening the Ark had 6000 visitors. That would appear to be the high-water mark thus far though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few bigger weekends before the end of the summer.

    There’s quite a lot more, plus plenty of supportive photos.

  3. Ouch. My wife works at a planetarium, and her director directs several other similar destinations, and if your peak day is only 50% ahead of your break-even number? That’s very, very bad.

  4. @realthog- did you read any of the comments to that link? Very interesting how people hop around between “don’t schadenfreude” and dismay at the waste of money & effort. It looks like mostly xtians commenting so lots of support for ole Hambo but also some pointed criticism for YEC and its ability to alienate anyone with any scientific literacy.

  5. SC said:
    “…so if things keep going at that rate, the ark will generate over $52 million per year. M’god — they’ll be able to pay off the whole bond issue they used to build the thing in just a couple of years.
    Isn’t the Ark Park/AIG tax exempt? If so, are they required to open their books to the public? Ham might skim off $50 million, leaving only $2 million to go for anything else. Who knows?

  6. After seeing (and anticipating) Hambo’s concept art for the ark, I’m surprised how homely the thing is. The facade has a mottled gray hue over much of the center. Obviously there’s been a lot of dramatic license to make the ark look interesting and aesthetically pleasing, more would have helped.
    I was hoping the guy who did the drone footage on a Sunday morning would go back and give us a mid-Saturday reprise. Even without new drone footage, realthog’s link makes me think Hambo is getting low range numbers. The link (which has a commenter wondering about lower winter attendance) also makes me think how incongruous the ark will look during the winter. Northern Kentucky gets plenty of snow, and the ark will look a bit odd covered with snow and icicles.

  7. @Katatonic
    It looks like mostly xtians commenting

    It’s an Xtian blog, so that’s not surprising! The kind of mixture of comments you describe is fairly typical of it. The comments sections occasionally get hijacked by YECs (as Christine Janis will testify, heh heh), but usually not so.

    The blogger himself is one of the vast majority of Xtians who accept evolution, but he seems to have “sympathies with the concerns of” (as the current Xtian euphemism seems to run) YECs. I find the blog well worth following for insights into how the (rational) other half thinks.

  8. Derek Freyberg

    If the Ark Fark wants its tax credits, it will presumably have to file some paperwork with the state – maybe that will give attendance information.

  9. There is more drone footage from a Friday and Saturday showing very few cars – just go back to Youtube and you’ll find it!

  10. The early attendance figures should be a warning sign for Ham, since odds are that they’re as high as they’ll ever get and will decline considerably.

    The early visitors doubtless include Christian zealots who’ve been waiting for the Ark to open and allow the dimbulbs to enter the vessel (two by two, of course). Once they’ve sen it, most probably won’t return, so future suckers will mostly be curiosity-seekers who happen to live relatively nearby. Again, I’d guess only a small minority would come back. Most people simply have better ways to waste their time.

  11. Go on a tour of the ark. This is on a weekend in early August. Very humerous.

  12. It’s impressively huge, but I can’t see anything that would make me come back. Hundreds of stuffed or puppet animals, standing still in their mindnumbingly boring cages without so much as a bit of straw to stand on.

    This thing is not going to hold water (see what I did there?).

  13. Since I live in the Cincinnati area I wanted to see first hand the Woody and how many people would show up the Wednesday before Labor Day at 10:30 AM. The queue line to buy a ticket before you could get on the bus snaked all the way out of the sheltered area. I don’t know if the idea of the long line was to give the impression that there were a lot of people trying to get in. The line was moving really slow and determined it was gong to be around noon before I got on the bus so I decided I had better things to do and left. Oh, the reason for the long line and the impression that lots of folks wanted to get in,,,of the 15 ticket windows available, only two were open.

  14. What has not been taken into account regarding visitors to the ark is those who have previously purchased either lifetime or 3 year “boarding passes” that entitle them to free admission. My guess is that those who were dedicated enough in the project to purchase these would be likely to visit in the first few months after the opening. In addition, family passes cover the children as well. One wonder how many admission fees Ham took in, as opposed to visitors.

  15. I know a fellow from northern Indiana who drove his family down for a visit, and apparently thought it was great. I will be seeing him next week and will ask him some questions, including whether or not he plans future visits. Report at 10.

  16. Thanks for the video, Ed – now I don’t have to make the trip! 🙂

  17. Hmmm. I seem to remember reading one of the Ten Commandants. That shalt not bear false witness. Well, Mr. Ham. How many paying visitors have you had so far since the opening? I beg your pardon Mr. Ham, I do not seem to be able to understand your mumbling. Please repeat. Without mumbling? I see Mr. Ham. Confidential information. Hmm. Well we will see eventually won’t we.