The life-size replica of Noah's Ark by Creationist Ken Ham, built on exactly the same specifications as described in the Bible, finally opened Kentucky, drawing about 8,000 people to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The vessel, 510 feet long and almost seven-stories high, was built in six years at the cost of $100 million. The ark is an initiative of Ham's Answers in Genesis ministry, and sits on an 800 acre-field in Williamstown.
Ham said that the theme park opened to the public on July 7 (7/7) which matches with the Biblical verse Genesis 7:7, when Noah's family entered the ark.
"We are so excited that the construction progress and schedule landed on this 7/7 date. Genesis 7:7 states that Noah and his family entered the Ark. So it's fitting we allow the public to enter the life-size Ark on 7/7," Ham said in November when the opening date was first announced.
"In a world that is becoming increasingly secularized and biased, it's time for Christians to do something of this size and this magnitude," he was quoted as saying in another one of the ministry press releases.
America Research Group estimates that between 1.4 to 2.2 million people are expected to visit the ark in the first year, and that around 400,000 people will come to the Creation Museum.
The three decks of the ark have 125,000 square feet of exhibits. The Ark Encounter also features an Ararat Ridge Zoo, donkey and camel rides, along with a 1,500-seat themed restaurant.
The Ark Encounter is being opposed by atheists in Australia, the home country of Ham, and in US as well. American Atheists in Texas, and Tri-State Freethinkers from Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio asked their supporters to protest against Ark encounter.
Ham said that the number was those protesting was very small as compared to the actual number of visitors to the Ark Encounter.
"Many news sources today (including my homeland of Australia) are reporting on a group protesting the life-size Ark opening today in N. Kentucky. News.com.au states there'll be a 'renewed wave of protest' - as if there's some sort of massive protest against the Ark. One news source had the headline 'Protesters fire up as Aussie's ark opens.' Wow. This must be some massive protest!" Ham wrote on Facebook.
The Tri-State Freethinkers went as far as to attempt running an ad next to the Ark's entrance, which read "Genocide & Incest Park ... celebrating 2,000 years of myths."
The Billboard companies declined to put up the ad as they said it was inappropriate.
"We default to accepting most all copy, but if there's something we deem not appropriate then we don't run it," Tom Fahey, manager of the Cincinnati office of Lamar, told Kentucky.com. "It seemed more inflammatory in nature than anything else."
"For our supporters' preview of the Ark on Tuesday, we had over 8,000 visitors, and another 7,000 yesterday--and who knows how many thousands today. The interest is very high--the people reach on my Facebook has over 7 million the last few days. So a handful of atheists protest thousands upon thousands of people coming to a Christian Themed Attraction and attract media attention--thanks for the publicity," Ham said.