Ark Encounter has been ‘very busy,’ founder says. Admission numbers show decline.

The number of paid visitors at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown in September pale in comparison to its 2017 figures, according to a local geologist who has been obtaining and crunching the numbers.

But the ark’s founder continues to boast about its popularity.

Wednesday, Answers of Genesis CEO and founder Ken Ham said it has been “another very busy month at the Creation Museum ... as well as the life size Ark.” His tweet followed another from Sept. 8 in which he said the Ark Encounter has had “increased attendance.”

Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, obtains the Ark attendance numbers from the city of Williamstown every month and reported September attendance at the Ark Encounter was nearly 17 percent lower than in September 2017. There were 69,207 paid visitors this September, compared to 83,330 in the same month last year.

He also noted decreases in attendance in August and July from the same months in 2017. Phelps received the numbers through an open-records request.

After he gets the numbers, Phelps sends them to various pro-science groups, anti-creationists and atheists along with groups that advocate for separation of church and state, and evangelical Christians that accept evolution, he said. He also sends them to the Friendly Atheist blog, which published Phelps’ recent findings Tuesday.

Attendance was calculated through the amount of money received by the city of Williamstown via a safety fee of 50 cents per ticket that pays for ambulances and fire trucks, the Friendly Atheist noted. The city calculates the number of tickets sold and provides that as well.

The Courier-Journal reported in August the Ark Encounter sold a little more than 860,000 tickets from July 2017 to June 2018, despite estimates from the park in 2016 of 1.4 million to 2.4 million yearly visitors.

Ham called previous reports about decreased attendance “fake news.”

The Ark Encounter opened July 2016 and features a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark that is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high.

The attraction was met with controversy that continues to percolate. Opponents have criticized lucrative tax incentives from the state. Protests have occurred.

Williamstown, which expected a flurry of business after the Ark opened, did not receive the impact it expected after the first year.

In February, the Ark Encounter increased its tickets prices for adults and decreased its pricing for children. Admission for children 4 years old or younger remained free.

Ham said in a release earlier this year that visitors have told him their “Christian-themed attractions exceeds what they’ve experienced at the Disney parks, Universal Studios and the Smithsonian museums.”