President of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, announced February 27 that they have raised enough money to begin construction on the Ark Encounter project in Kentucky, estimated to cost about $73 million.
Under Ham's direction, a full-scale 510-foot-long Noah's Ark will be built as the featured attraction at the Ark Encounter. Research indicates that the Ark, located south of Cincinnati in Grant County, Kentucky will draw up to 2 million people in its first year.
"God has burdened AiG to rebuild a full-size Noah's Ark," Ham wrote on his website.
The park will include "a pre-flood themed area, live animal shows and a Tower of Babel featuring a special-effects theater and a 1st-century village," according to the Courier-Journal.
Ham said the soon-to-be-released Hollywood film "Noah" starring Russell Crowe, plus the high-profile evolution debate with Bill Nye "The Science Guy" have all helped bring the Ark Encounter to the world's attention and raised money for the project.
"The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God's timing, not ours-and although the bond registration had already closed before February 4 and no more bonds could be purchased- the high-profile debate prompted some people who had registered for the bonds to make sure they followed through with submitting the necessary and sometimes complicated paperwork." Ham said.
Nye said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky" after learning that the project would move forward. He said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham's ministry, which preaches that the Bible's creation story is a true account, and as a result, "voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest."
The Ark Encounter will be built on 800 acres off I-75 and in phases over many years. The Ark and other supporting elements will open during phase one. The first phase will cost an estimated $73 million. Several million dollars in donations and Ark boarding passes (memberships) had been raised prior to the bond offering, and most of that amount has already been used to pay for the Ark's land, secure expensive permits and licenses, clear the property, draw architectural plans, design the exhibits, etc.
Groundbreaking is planned for May and the ark is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016.