Ken Ham’s dinosaur boat isn’t receiving $43 million in tax incentives from Kentucky, and might not receive any (UPDATE)


This week, Rachel Maddow ventured back into the bluegrass for a segment highlighting The Shame of Kentucky: Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, creators of the Creation “Museum” — now featuring a white supremacist’s fossil — and the proposed Ark Encounter theme park, which will feature the story of a 600-year old man herding T-Rexes onto a giant boat a few thousand years ago as historical and scientific truth:

Maddow highlighted how the park — which will never be built, don’t worry — could be eligible to receive up to $43 million in tax incentives from the state, thanks to the vocal support of Gov. Steve Beshear. Ken Ham subsequently howled and squealed that Maddow got her facts wrong — Ham intentionally misconstrued what she said, like he does with all other facts — and Ark Encounter will get no public money to build it…just a ton of tax rebates from the state to go to himself and Ark Encounter investors.

Two months ago, Maddow was completely correct in her assessment, but according to new information LEO just discovered from Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet, the facts on the ground have changed. Ham and his dinosaur boat will absolutely not receive $43 million in tax incentives from the state, and there’s still doubt that they will be eligible for any incentives at all.

Ark Encounter’s original tax incentive application for potentially $43 million was approved by a Tourism board in May of 2011. This gave them three years to start construction, and whatever Ark Encounter spent on construction, they would be eligible for up to 25 percent of that amount once the park opened in rebates, assuming that the project was an economic success and passed benchmarks. However, that three year period ended this month, and Ark Encounter construction has not yet started, which would mean that they are not eligible for any tax incentives unless they amended or resubmitted an application. And in March, that’s exactly what they did.

Tourism Cabinet spokesman Gil Lawson tells LEO that on March 28, Ark Encounter representatives withdrew their original application for a $172 million project and resubmitted a new application for a dramatically scaled back $73 million project. If this application is approved — and if Ark Encounter is actually built and meets economic benchmarks — they would only be eligible for a maximum of $18.25 million in tax incentives.

But that remains a big “if.” Lawson notes that not all applications for tax incentives make their way to the Tourism board for a vote, and just because an application makes its way to the board doesn’t mean that it will be approved. Lawson says that Ark Encounter’s new application is currently being reviewed by the Tourism Cabinet, and it is still far from being scheduled for a vote. Sometimes this process takes a long time (see: Kentucky Kingdom) and sometimes it happens in record speed (see: Ark Encounter from December of 2010 to May of 2011).

During Ark Encounter’s first inception, Gov. Besehar put his full weight behind it, pushing the project through easily with very little oversight, though much humiliation for the state of Kentucky (see: Dinosaurs on a goddamned boat). LEO asked a Beshear spokesman this afternoon if the governor plans to fully support Ark Encounter’s new application like he did in late-2010 and early-2011, or if he would take another strategy. He said he would give us an answer as soon as he could, and we’ll update this story once that comes to us. (*UPDATE: Beshear administration comment at the bottom of this post)

So here’s our question on what Beshear does: Are we going to see the Kynect “Get over it, GOP!” Beshear? Or the “gay people can’t procreate, so screw them” Beshear?

One more question: When Ark Encounter was wooing investors for their project earlier this year, did Ken Ham tell them that $43 million in public money was coming their way once it opened, or was he honest by telling him that little to no public money was going back into their coffers?

Either way, I’ll reiterate one thing: This park is most likely not going to be built in the first place, so this is probably all moot.

***** UPDATE *****

Here’s the comment from Beshear’s spokesman Terry Sebastian, which sounds like there will be no joint press conference any time soon where I can ask him if dinosaurs will be on the Ark:

“With the revised application in the review process, we are going to let the process play out and not comment at this stage.”


  1. Merlin1963
    Posted May 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update. I don’t think that Beshear’s people will get back to you soon. I’ve found they claim they want to address what they claim is misinformation on the state’s role in the Ark Park, but they never seem to get back to those who question giving any type of state aid to Ken Ham. So Beshear will duck this one for as long as possible.

  2. Steve A Reno
    Posted May 30, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I thought the conservatives wanted less government spending and borrowing? How they get away with this?

  3. Vicki
    Posted May 31, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Dang! I wanted to visit. Giant animatronic dinosaurs on a boat. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!

  4. Peter Lacovara
    Posted May 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Why isn’t there a big class action suit filed against the NRA to defund it and put an end to this once and for all?

  5. Puhn Tang
    Posted June 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Somebody needs to warn the Guv that the dino he loves riding is gay and wants to marry his pterodactyl boyfriend. Or not.

  6. Brian
    Posted June 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    @ Steve A Reno,

    I found it a universal truth acknowledged by few, that when right-wingers say they want less government spending what they actually mean is:
    “We want the government to spend more money on incompetent private companies to deliver services currently delivered by public servants at a higher cost, at lower quality and with massive increases in the chances of bribes returning our way.”

    The right don’t give two fucks about lower spending, they just rather spend the money on their (already too rich) friends, than for the good of the country they supposedly represent.

  7. Gerald Roston
    Posted June 1, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Someone should ask Mr. Ham to provide a scale model of the ark showing how the various animals could fit. Apatosaurus, Seismosaurus, and Argentinosaurus were all in excess of 25 m in length – just getting one pair of those three animals on board alone would leave little room for anything else. This does not address the facte that they consumed (probably) on the order of 500 kg of food and 100 l of water per day., all of which also needed to be stored on the Ark. Oh sorry – I was injecting logic into this discussion – my bad!

  8. Guy
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Ummm… I hate to break it to you that are claiming this is how right-wingers operate. Beshear is a Democrat and very much so. Might want to do a little research first and if you were familiar with Kentucky it’s very much a Demo state, no matter McConnell and Paul.

5 Trackbacks

  1. By This Week in God, 5.31.14 | Bridge Notes on June 1, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    […] Encounter theme park was supposed to be subsidized with tax dollars in Kentucky. That support is now in doubt: “[A]ccording to new information LEO just discovered from Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet, the facts […]

  2. […] would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either. Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s […]

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  4. […] Noah’s Ark — was supposed to be open by now, but was delayed by fundraising troubles for years. Their new application for a dramatically scaled-back project was given preliminary […]

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    Ken Ham’s dinosaur boat isn’t receiving $43 million in tax incentives from Kentucky, and might not receive any (UPDATE) – FatLip