The group behind Kentucky's Creation Museum is planning a new addition: a full-sized, 500-foot long, 80-foot high recreation of Noah's Ark.
The Christian ministry Answers in Genesis envisions the giant ship to be the focal point of a new theme park that, like the Creation Museum, will mix a literal take on the Bible with family entertainment.
The group's Web site asks:
What if we built the Ark (out of wood) today? Imagine the impact it could have on the world. What a powerful outreach to teach the world about God's Word and the message of salvation!
Holed up in a bland office park in northern Kentucky, a team of Christian architects is dreaming up plans for a literal retelling of the Old Testament.
The modern ark will be nestled along the edge of an 800-acre plot of rolling Kentucky farmland. The builders have no intentions of creating a boat to rescue the world from an apocalyptic storm. Rather, the ark will tell the world that the Bible's epic story was an integral part of human history.
Mike Zovath, project manager of the ark, told the Associated Press that the boat will include a mix of live and stuffed or animatronic animals.
When you get to walk through the boat and see how big this thing really was, and how many cages were there, and how much room there was for food and water ... our hope is people start seeing that this is plausible, that the account could be believed, Zovath said.
By his count, Noah had anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 animals on board.
While there have been several lavish ark recreations in the past, Answers in Genesis seems poised to get the job done.
Their extravagant Creation Museum is a state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum that brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings, according to the Web site.
The controversial museum opened in 2007 and attracted worldwide attention for presenting stories from the Bible as historical fact, challenging evolution and asserting that the earth was created roughly 6,000 years ago.
The museum boasts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, children playing near dinosaurs, and a movie called Men in White that explores how the Bible and science match up, among other exhibits.
The theme park will be the ministry's first big expansion and many of the same people who designed the museum are on board, including Patrick Marsh, who created some of Universal Studios big attractions in Florida.
The new $155-million theme park, to be called The Ark Encounter, is set to open in 2014. It will include several themed areas like Noah's animals, an aviary, a walled city, a first-century village, a journey through biblical history, and a recreation of the Tower of Babel.
Answers in Genesis has raised nearly $3.7 million of the $24.5 million they hope to receive in donations.
It would appear that a lot of people are excited about the project. The Ark Encounter Web site's donation page alone has over ten thousand Facebook Likes.
Sponsors are asked to donate a peg, plank, or beam to the ship, which will be built entirely of wood by a team of Amish builders from Indiana.
Not everyone is thrilled about the upcoming park.
Banking on the park's success and the 900 jobs it is expected to create, Kentucky has made the project eligible for more than $40 million in sales tax rebates if the Ark Encounter hits its attendance marks (a feasibility study declared that the park would attract 1.6 million visitors in its first year).
The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State has said the park would run afoul of constitutional law. They argue in a statement:
Noah didn't get government help when he built the first ark, and the fundamentalist ministry behind the Kentucky replica shouldn't either.
The group has not sought legal action and, if they did, it would be an uphill battle as any project seen as a boost to Kentucky's tourism is eligible for incentives.
Construction of the Ark is to begin early in 2012.
Learn more about the project in the video below: