Did Ken Ham lower the Ark Encounter attendance estimates? Not exactly

Did Ken Ham lower the Ark Encounter attendance estimates? Not exactly September 16, 2016
Image: Ark Encounter
Image: Ark Encounter

The Ark Encounter attendance numbers have been up for debate for some time now. Ken Ham loves to say the park will attract around 2 million people in the first year, while the official report by the state suggests something more in the ballpark of 325,000.

For some reason, the State of Kentucky still sided with Ham’s own estimates, giving them the up to $18 million in rebates.

Today, Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheists says that Ham is lowering his estimates by 30 percent, from 2 million to 1.4 million.

This isn’t completely what’s happening, though.

As I reported in April of 2015, Ham wrote that “In fact, the very latest study by America’s Research Group (a renowned organization) has increased its estimated minimum attendance for the first year by 200,000 guests—up to 1.4 million people!”

Mehta cites, correctly, an interview with Ham in which he says, “… the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year.”

Then points out that just this week, Ham said in another interview that they are projecting about 1.4 million for the year.

In fact, 1.4 has been the official projection all long, it’s just that sometimes Ham touts the “up to” number a little larger.

Now, Ham has touted a “head researcher” who he claims said they believed it could be more in the 2 million range. So Hemant isn’t exactly wrong in saying that Ham is lowering his estimates, at least, in this single interview. I do expect we see Ham drag the 2 million number out again.

One thing to remember is, the $18 million tax incentive is based on the 1.4 million estimate, not the 2 million. The report that Ark Encounter filed was the America’s Research Group report that never mentioned 2 million people.

Mehta also did the calculations and if Ark Encounter attendance keeps pace to what Ham is claiming, that 300,000 people have already visited, then the park will hit 1.5 million visitors in year one. While this is short of the 2 million number Ham likes, it is more than 1.4 estimated and they would be potentially eligible to receive the full $18 million rebate.

As Mehta points out, though, that would mean the park would have to keep pace all winter long, something highly unlikely given the cold weather, potential for snow, and dates closed around the winter holidays.

What is more realistic is that the park’s numbers will dwindle through the winter, and in order to keep pace, they would nearly have to double their numbers in the spring and summer, which is unrealistic.

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