A life-sized recreation of Noah's Ark opens for tourists to board July 7. Its creators indicate it is the closest version to the legendary ship of the Bible that modern civilization can build. At 510 feet long, 80 feet wide and more than 90 feet tall at its highest point, the ship is the largest free-standing timber frame structure in the world.
The ark is part of a new $92 million theme park in the middle of a Kentucky farm field, one built with such painstaking devotion to biblical accounts that construction workers relied on an ancient measurement known as an Egyptian cubit, reports KSDK-TV. The team working on it refer to it as "bigger than imagination."
"More and more, Christians are saying the secular world builds its themed attractions, so why shouldn't we as Christians build themed attractions to be able to reach people but to get the message out?" said Ken Ham, co-founder and president of Answers in Genesis, the group behind the Ark Encounter and also the Creation Museum that opened in Petersburg, Ky., nine years ago.
"That is our primary motive after all," Ham said.
Inside the ark yields a unique perspective on what life might have been like aboard the vessel, including a representation of Noah's quarters and examples of the wildlife that could have been saved from the flood described in the Book of Genesis.
In addition to the Ark structure, this first phase of the Ark Encounter includes Ararat Ridge Zoo (with a petting zoo), a 1,500-seat restaurant, a gift store under the Ark, and a zip line course that eventually will run a total of nine miles. Several dozen exhibits inside the Ark will acquaint visitors with life aboard the Ark for Noah and his family, as well as explain how the Ark would have accommodated all the necessary animal "kinds" during the worldwide Flood.
The ark is designed to accommodate up to 10,000 guests each day.
"We feel ourselves to be a ministry, but we recognize we need to use good business principles to keep it going," Ham said. "We're not in this to make money. Now we have to make money to be able to operate it, but we're not in it as (if) we were an entertainment industry just to make profit."
Christians deserve their own destination tourism attractions, said Ham.
"Why shouldn't we be able to build a place like Disney with that sort of quality for millions of people?" he asked.
Single-day tickets to the ark range from $28 to $40, depending on purchasing for children, adults or seniors.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter just toured the Ark Encounter. "The Ark is remarkable. And it's some of the best wood-working I've ever seen," he said.
"It was a thrill to have a special time of fellowship with President Carter as we chatted and walked through the Ark," said Ham. "We have admired his carpentry skills for many years, and it seemed that he appreciated the incredible craftsmanship that is on display at the Ark, along with its massive amount of wood."