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Ky. lawmaker supports Ark Encounter tax breaks

(WHAS11) -- A powerful Kentucky lawmaker is throwing his support behind tax breaks for the attraction called Ark Encounter. 
Ark Encounter

(WHAS11) -- A powerful Kentucky lawmaker is throwing his support behind tax breaks for the attraction called Ark Encounter. 

On Thursday, Nov. 12, developers announced a July 7, 2016 opening for the attraction. The group behind the attraction, Answers in Genesis, is currently battling in court to receive public tax incentives for building the attraction.

Some have questions whether a religious-based theme park should be eligible for that tax break.

Kentucky Senate majority leader, Damon Thayer, (R), District-17, was at the developer's announcement on Thursday and he said that he would go to Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin and ask him to keep the promises of his predecessor. 

"When I drive up, it's awe inspiring," Thayer said.

RELATED: Religious theme park gears up for July 2016 opening

Ark Encounter is based on the biblical story of Noah's ark and it is located in his district, in Williamstown. Williamstown is about 40 mile north of Lexington. 

Answers in Genesis was promised approximately $18 million in state tax incentives to build, but concern over whether a religious-based amusement park should receive that tax break led to the offer being rescinded. The company then sued. 

Now supporters have a renewed hope that a court may not be forced to decide. 

"I'm going to strong encourage governor-elect Bevin to support the promise that was made to the Ark Encounter for these tax credits," Thayer said. "And I'm going to urge him to urge the board that oversees this to go back and revisit the decision to break that promise."

The man behind this project told me he thinks the judge may rule before Matt Bevin takes office. He'd prefer a court decision to a politician's signature. 

"In reality we would like to see it being ruled on as a legal issue in court because I think that's important because otherwise people can continue to have the similar problems in different areas and I think this issue needs to be dealt with. So it's, it's a precedent," Ken Ham, the developer, said. 

RELATED: Thayer: Ark Encounter should be able to hire based on religion

Thayer said the fact that this attraction is faith based should not play any part on whether it gets tax breaks. 

"That to me is a moot point. It is a, it is a tourist destination that met the criteria that the Beshear administration laid out, in that the statue lays out under the tourism development act," Thayer said. 

Once the attraction is completed it will be billed as the largest timber frame structure in the world at 510 feet long and 85 feet wide. 

There will be 132 exhibit bays in the ark that stands 51 feet high. 

Ark Encounter Will remain open around the clock for the first 40 days allowing visitors to walk through on the 40 days and 40 nights. 

In January Answers in Genesis will begin selling tickets for those days on their website. 

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