WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Construction of a Noah's Ark attraction in northern Kentucky is sailing along, and the builders say it will open next year.
Answers in Genesis, the Christian ministry leading the project, announced Thursday that the attraction will open to visitors July 7.
The massive, 510-foot-long wooden boat is the $90 million first phase of a planned religious theme park. Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham says work on the bow and stern will begin soon.
"We believe that what we're doing here in this particular life-size reconstruction will be the most authentic and realistic reconstruction of Noah's Ark in the world," Ham said during a media gathering on the ship's deck Thursday.
The state gave final approval for a tourism tax incentive to the project in 2011, but slow fundraising hampered the ark's development and the builders had to reapply. Last year, the state rejected the second application for an $18 million sales tax rebate, citing growing concerns of "religious indoctrination." The ark's builders are suing in federal court to get back in the incentive program.
But the election of a Republican governor who will take office in 2016 could render the lawsuit moot. Gov.-elect Matt Bevin could drop the court defense and move to place the ark's application back in the tax rebate program. Bevin has said he supports tax rebates for the project.
Answers in Genesis has attracted headlines and controversy for promoting a view that Old Testament stories are true and the Earth is just 6,000 years old.
Science educators, including TV star Bill Nye, have criticized the ark project, saying it could divert young people away from taking an interest in science.
Nye debated Ham at a widely seen online event last year. Nye said if Noah's ark had actually been built, it would have been destroyed by the sea.