Ark Encounter had record attendance in February
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Attendance at Ark Encounter was much higher this past February compared to the same time period a year ago, but the numbers are nowhere near what was projected when the Ark first opened.
The bottom line? Ark Encounter had 23,020 paying visitors in February. That’s more than double the 10,826 people who visited last February, and even higher than the 15,145 visitors they had in February of 2020, before the pandemic shutdown. Does that mean things are finally looking up? It’s only one data point but we’ll see if there’s a trend.
Here are all the attendance numbers we know along with the Safety Fee that Answers in Genesis has paid to the city of Williamstown. (The public nature of that fee is how we know the attendance numbers at all.)
Over the past year, Ark Encounter has started to once again host on-site conferences. Like other tourist attractions, they rely on Spring Break trips, summer vacations, and warmer weather attendees in general. February’s record attendance could be the result of a lot of people who were holding off visiting the park due to the winter weather. Indeed, last month was one of the warmest ever on record for Kentucky.
In other words, the people who deny climate change are benefitting from it, giving them more opportunities to spread a different sort of harmful lie.
The Creationists have attempted to lure people in through a large Gospel music festival and even a carousel for kids:
They also plan to build a makeshift Tower of Babel to bring in new visitors.
Keep in mind that the Ark’s parent company, Crosswater Canyon, received between $1 million and $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program. Ham also raised at least $1,135,009 in a separate fundraiser to offset COVID-related losses. Despite all that, Answers in Genesis sued its insurers over pandemic-related losses.
AiG also recently purchased the former Toyota HQ in Erlanger, KY for $31.3 million. After "renovations and upgrades," the building will house their "educational hub." They clearly have money coming in from sources that don’t involve ticket sales.
Finally, remember that actual attendance is likely higher than these numbers represent because kids get in for free, as do members with lifetime passes. But giving away freebies to children and life members doesn’t help the local economy as much as drawing in first-time customers who are ready to spend money or conference attendees who are there for another reason.
All the stated attendance figures are far smaller than the 1.4 to 2.2 million visitors that Ark Encounter’s parent company predicted they would be pulling in several years ago. The total attendance in 2022 was under 750,000. Even the rosiest projections for 2023 don’t get to those earlier estimates.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)
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