As we mentioned a month ago, there’s quite a bit of speculation about why Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis haven’t even begun the groundbreaking for their giant boat with dinosaurs on it (otherwise know as Ark Encounter) in Grant County. Even though they have successfully lobbied their way into tax incentives from the Beshear administration and Grant County officials, they appear to have hit a snag of late.
Their groundbreaking was pushed back from spring, to summer, to fall, and the most recent media report was to next spring. Meanwhile, their fundraising goal of $24.5 million appears to have ground to a halt at just over $4 million, where it has been for quite a while. They had reached the $3 million mark all the way back in May.
LEO Weekly contacted our good friend at Answers in Genesis, Senior Vice President Mike Zovath, for a status update on groundbreaking and fundraising for Ark Encounter, but he sadly did not return our calls.
LEO Weekly also contacted the Tourism Cabinet to see if they’ve heard any update from Answers in Genesis or Ark Encounter LLC on when they would be breaking ground and how their fundraising is going.
“We don’t know anything about groundbreakings or fundraising from them,” said Tourism Cabinet spokesman Gil Lawson. “We’ve not heard anything from them.”
However, emails between Answers in Genesis and the Tourism Cabinet obtained by LEO Weekly through an open records request reveal a different story.
On Oct. 27, Todd Cassidy, the executive director of the tourism department’s office of financial incentives, sent an email to Zovath with AiG asking for the status of Ark Encounter.
“It has been a while since we last spoke,” wrote Cassidy. “May I ask the status of the fund raising and any proposed ground breaking?”
Zovath’s reply the next day revealed not only problems delaying their groundbreaking, but also difficulties raising enough funds to build the giant dinosaur boat in question.
“Todd, we actually considered an official ground breaking earlier this month but too many complexities got in the way so we ended up putting it on hold until everything is worked out,” wrote Zovath. “Funding is progressing, a little slower due to the very slow economy.”
Zovath went on to list further issues concerning permits and buying property, saying that it might take an additional three to four months before they can start construction. Despite the difficulties raising money, Zovath very optimistically thought that Ark Encounter would eventually be open to guests earlier than their planned spring 2014 opening.
“We plan to close on the Finke property when our option expires in Feb. Brown bats and environmental permits are the next targets. We need to secure our Bat MOA and get our trees down as soon as we close on the last property and before the end of March. It looks like we won’t be able to get a waiver from KDOW so we’re looking at an additional 3-4 months added to our permit schedule before we can begin the construction phase. We are considering a few options to help speed up the construction and possibly open to guests earlier than our original schedule. Once we have more information developed I’ll update you – probably by the first of the year ….. Z.”
However, at their current fundraising pace, groundbreaking and construction would probably occur by maybe… 2024?
It’s funny, but some have suggested for quite some time that this giant dinosaur boat will never get built, and those millions of dollars in donations given to Answers in Genesis will never be refunded (there is no disclaimer on their site).
But people are just so cynical these days. Trust in Ham.