After years of discussion and construction, the Ark Encounter that includes what organizers call an authentic replica of Noah’s ark will open to the public on Thursday.
The Ark Encounter held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday in Williamstown, Ky. Click on the images below to get a sneak peek inside the venue.
The park was built by Answers in Genesis, which also operates the Creation Museum located in Petersburg about 45 minutes away.
Tickets for the park’s 40-day debut went on sale in January and were expected to sell out. The group expects more than 1.4 million visitors to tour the site in its first year of operation.
The site will include gardens surrounding the ark where queues will form along with a 2,100-seat standalone restaurant, a 1,000-seat multipurpose theater that will be used for live events and a large petting zoo just outside the ark in its first phase. Eventually, the Ark Encounter will encompass 800 acres with additional attractions including a restaurant on the top deck of the ark itself and a gift shop below the structure.
Outside consultants have estimated the park will attract 1.4 million to 2.2 million visitors a year and have a $4 billion economic impact in the next 10 years. In addition, 20,000 jobs are expected to be created as a result of the Ark Encounter’s opening over the next 10 years.
The $84 million project, which includes the largest timber frame structure in the world, was managed by Troyer Group One Source of Mishawaka, Inc. The ark is 510 feet long and 81 feet high, which matches dimensions included in the book of Genesis. It contains 132 internal exhibit areas.
The park’s construction continued despite the long-running debate over whether or not it should receive $18 million in tax rebates from the state of Kentucky. In January, a federal judge issued an injunction against the state of Kentucky for blocking efforts by the park to participate in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program.
Williamstown is 40 miles south of Cincinnati on Interstate 75.