Visitors roam around a replica Noah's Ark as rain clouds pass overhead at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day on July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. WILLIAMSTOWN, Kentucky (AP) — A 510-foot-long, $100 million Noah’s ark attraction built by Christians who say the biblical story really happened is ready to open in Kentucky this week.
Since its announcement in 2010, the ark project has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education and shouldn’t have won state tax incentives.
Ham said the massive ark, based on the tale of a man who got an end-of-the-world warning from God about a massive flood, will stand as proof that the stories of the Bible are true. The ark will open to the public Thursday and Ham’s group has estimated it will draw 2 million visitors in its first year, putting it on par with some of the big-ticket attractions in nearby Cincinnati. Children look into a cage containing model baby dinosaurs inside a replica Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day on July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. An ark opponent who leads an atheist group called the Tri-State Freethinkers said the religious theme park will be unlike any other in the nation because of its rejection of science.

Answers in Genesis CEO and founder Ken Ham speaks at a ribbon cutting at Ark Encounter July 5, 2016 in Williamstown, Kentucky. Ham said the total cost of the ark surpassed $100 million, a far cry from a few years ago, when fundraising for the boat was sluggish and much larger theme park plans had to be scaled back.
A few weeks later, a local bond issuance infused tens of millions of dollars into struggling fundraising efforts. Months later, the tax incentive ruling still has some opponents of the boat scratching their heads.
The court ruled in January that Kentucky officials could not impose requirements on the ark that were not applied to other applicants for the tax incentive, which rebates a portion of the sales tax collected by the ark. When Ham was asked about the tax incentive at the Tuesday event, he drew loud cheers when he proclaimed no taxpayer money was used to the build the ark. As much of a boon as the $18 million tax break would be, Bill Nye’s agreeing to debate Ham may have helped turn the tide of years of sluggish fundraising.

Nye, a high-profile science advocate and former TV personality, debated Ham on evolution and drew a huge online audience. About three weeks after the debate, Ham announced that a bond offering from the city of Williamstown had raised $62 million for the project, and a few months later Answers in Genesis was breaking ground at the site of the ark.
The Ark Encounter is a theme park centered around a 510 foot long reproduction of Noah's Ark. The group invited media and thousands of supporters for a preview Tuesday, the first glimpse inside the giant, mostly wood structure. And earlier this year, a federal judge ruled the ark could receive a Kentucky sales tax incentive worth up to $18 million while giving a strict religious test to its employees.

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