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When will the residents of Grant County see some dirt move on the Ark Encounter?
It could be awhile longer because financing for the project has not materialized as developers hoped it would.
No date has been set for a groundbreaking.
The Ark Encounter LLC did close on the final piece of property, known as the Finke property, needed for the project, which will encompass 800 acres.
The announcement that the Finke property, consisting of 550 acres, had been purchased was made on Feb. 15.
“Due to the rolling hills and ravines of this scenic property, about 800 acres are needed in order to get at least 160 useable acres – plus create a buffer around the Ark Encounter attraction. It has taken considerable, but necessary, time to close on all the different parcels, and there have been environmental studies that took time to perform on parts of the land, but all the needed acreage has been purchased,” said Mike Zovath, senior vice president of AiG and the Ark Encounter.
Developers of the project, which includes a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark, also said the project will be built in phases, rather than all at once. The original completion date was set for 2014.
The main reason for the decision to construct the project in phases boiled down to money, or the lack thereof.
To date, Answers in Genesis, the ministry responsible for building the Creation Museum in Hebron, said $5 million has been raised for construction of the Ark project, which is less than they anticipated.
Zovath said the sluggish economy has impacted the project and when it will be completed.
Despite the delay in groundbreaking, local officials remain hopeful that it begins sooner rather than later.
Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner said he had recent conversations about the project.
“The developers believe that closing on the Finke property will speed up the process and donations,” Skinner said. Skinner said developers must have two-thirds of the funding in place in order to begin the project. That amounts to $48 million.
Answers in Genesis hoped to raise $24 million in donations to help fund the building of the 500-foot-long Ark, which will be the main attraction at the park. About $5 million has been raised so far, according to the Ark Encounter’s press release issued last week. Previously, the project cost was estimated to be $172.5 million.
In May 2011, the project was approved for state incentives from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, based on a the projected investment of $172.5 million, which means the project would be eligible for a little more than $41 million in sales tax rebates.
Those state incentives are good for three years from the day the developers received approval.
Wade Gutman, chairman of the Grant County Industrial Development Authority, said the process wasn’t unusual for a project of this size.
“I’ve talked with Gary Moore (Boone County’s Judge-Executive) and he said they ran into the same thing when they were building the Creation Museum,” Gutman said. “It is disappointing that it’s not moving as quickly as projected, but it’s still a good project.”