It’s Official: Ark Encounter Had 862,491 Paying Customers In Its Second Year


How does that compare with the timeline of their estimates?

How depressing. Looking forward to the day this site and my book have half that many paying customers.


Ken Ham predicted between 1.4 to 2.2 million visitors to the Ark Encounter in its second year—and added that he thought it likely to be closer to the upper figure. (I think he said that in July of 2017 when reflecting on the first year of operation.)

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Did it go up or down this year?

I think Ham claimed that he had 800,000 the first year and one million the second. Of course, he doesn’t release detailed numbers and so it is hard to know how many visitors are “life-time member” donors and other repeat visitors who aren’t paying for each admission.

Frankly, considering his location in rural Kentucky, I consider anything over 800,000 to be extremely impressive. (After all, there’s nothing else to see around there.) I think its location will eventually be its demise: there’s just not enough incentive for return visits and its admission fees are downright pricey and prohibitive. By the fifth year or so I expect we will see aggressive “discount deals” and “family subscriptions” etc. Of course, Ham will continue to have huge donor support and even estate bequests. I don’t think he will care that AIG will have to keep subsidizing both tourist attractions from the general fund.

Ken Ham touted the Ark to investors using a marketing firm that said 1.4 to 2.2 million paying people would visit per year. This number was needed to cover The Ark cost over $100 million to build. Ark Encounter (a private for profit company) raised this money through the sale of junk bonds through the municipality of Williamstown. It was a con job disguised as a Christian outreach project. If the bond sales were done on Wall Street NYC instead of rural Christian Kentucky, SEC regulators would be launching bond fraud investigations and indictments.

At just over $30 a pop with that attendance they would get $25 or $26 million a year. So 4 years to make back the investment’s start up costs. Not great, but not SEC fraud territory either, at least not while John Corzine still walks around un- prosecuted. Unfortunately we have a fraud-based economy right now where all kinds of stuff that should not fly gets funded at near-zero rates based on who can get connected to one of the money spouts.

The account they are giving is fiction, and they make millions, meanwhile, you can’t hardly give the truth away.

When Ken Ham was marketing the Ark Encounter Bonds to investors he said that a large portion of the attendees (100,000s per year) would be school children from local schools for educational class trips. Several of us from FFRF heard this sales pitch and were ready. Two months prior to the Ark Encounter opening, FFRF lawyers sent letters to each and every public school principle and school superintendent in a 1500 mile radius of Williamtown KY (thousands of legal letters). In strong worded letters, FFRF said that they would sue in Federal Court and would move to have any principle fired should any public school have any kind of “educational” visit to Ark Encounter, even if it was on Saturday and arranged by the PTA. The court decision of Dover that ID was creationism which is religion was the legal precedent used. I am pleased to say that not a single class trip from any public school to the Ark Encounter has ever occurred. Ken Ham still cites the “Atheist” for hurting Ark Encounter attendance numbers.

Because these are unsecured junk bonds they carry an interest rate of around 12 percent a year. So just to pay the coupon interest on $100 million requires at least $12 million a year. Then there is a balloon payment of $100 million at the end of seven years. No way are these bond not going to default.

Note that it now cost $48 per person to get in plus $10 for parking. Most of that goes for operating expenses which is pretty much fixed and doesn’t go down much as attendance declines. Still need the same number of employees to take care of a 1000 people going through a day as you would with 10,000 people going through a day. Ark Encounter now has over 1100 employees. All must sign papers saying that they will not engage in pre-martial sex of any kind, are not gay, and believes that dinosaurs and people spent a year on a big rudderless boat.

Coming from a Muslim country, I am very much in favor of the separation of church and state to protect Christians and all minorities.

I’m curious, though–I’ve heard that there is such a thing as “release time” --which is where parents take their children out for an hour for Bible education. I’m surprised that parents can’t visit the Ark that way.

I also don’t understand why a trip (such as to a local mosque or other attraction) wouldn’t be allowed.

I don’t think release time is that helpful for religion–it’s a bit of an icon–sort of like crosses in a park.

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Randy, which country do you come from and which country do you live in now? I ask this because in some countries the mere act of talking to an atheist can get one in trouble, so I tell you this not wanting to bring any harm to you or your family.

Regarding your question about release time. In the United States, the government and all its officials, all its actions must be completely neutral on religion. This is embodied in the first amendment to the US Constitution which says simply:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This sentence is regarded as our right of freedom of thought, our freedom of expression. Our Government can’t tell us how to think nor how we can or can’t express ourselves.

Our public education system must be completely secular - neutral on whether God exists or doesn’t. So while a parent has full authority and right to take his/her child out of school and take the child to Ark Encounter, the school itself is prohibited from taking any student to see Ark Encounter because Ark Encounter is a self-proclaimed Christian site.

So a parent can take a child out of school to go to a church, synagogue or mosque, the school couldn’t take any child to any church, synagogue or mosque.

Sorry, thank you for your caution. We’ve talked earlier about wealth and secularism and the Dawkins fund for Niger–I’m a missionary kid who grew up Niger. I live in the US now since I was 20 (I’m in my 40s now), but my parents are from the US. You are right, though–if I lived there I would perhaps not even be on this site.

Niger is relatively peaceable and has fought against Boko Haram, but has no resources to help their own people–so there is a strong undercurrent of discontent, and some young people are joining militants there. But the government and many other peaceable people are trying to help keep things safe as possible.

Thanks for the information. That makes sense.

I am strongly in favor of the separation of church and state, though, because of where I grew up.

Best wishes.

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Yes, of course. I am forgetful at times. Sign of old age, I guess. Yes, the continued separation of church and state is very important to me and it should be to all Americans. The current administration is the worse on record for violating the constitution in this regard. This administration wants to build a wall between us and Mexico. The only wall we need is one between church and state.

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Ken Ham Claims the Media is Lying About Ark Encounter Attendance Numbers

I wonder why it matters to him…?

It matters to the People of Kentucky and the people of Williamstown. Ken Ham promised great economic rewards to the entire area if they would subsidize with tax incentives the building of the Ark. $62M of junk bonds floated by Williamstown. Ham was given free land and tax incentives. Promises of jobs and economic boon for restaurants and hotels. Over a $100M in investment, and no return yet. Bonds will likely default within a few years at this rate.

What do the media reports matter? The town already knows it’s coming up short.

It was FFRF who got the records via a Free of Information Act (FIOA) request. This is the front line of the culture war. The town was snookered and bamboozled by Ken Ham. And the local churches are to blame as well as they treated it as one of the great Christian apologetic initiatives in this country ever. I am proud of the fact that FFRF sent letters to every public school within 1500 miles and every one of them listened to the warning. Not one public school trip was every done to the Ark. Not one.