Ark Encounter's creators are hardly the first to identify religion as a potent tourist attraction. Christian-themed shows are a staple at the midwestern entertainment hub, Branson, Missouri, and even in New York City, a glittering nativity scene has been one of the highlights of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for decades.
In Orlando, a Bible-themed park has been open for years. The 15-acre Holy Land Experience seeks to bring biblical stories to life, including daily recreations of the Last Supper, Christ's death on the Cross, and his resurrection. There's even a spot where guests can pose walking on water with Jesus.
The Ark's developers have also operated the popular and controversial Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., since 2007, located about 40 miles away from the planned ark park. The museum features high-tech exhibits like animatronic dinosaurs, illustrating the museum's narrative that God created dinosaurs and man at the same time, an idea that many Christians would dispute.
Some 1.2 million visitors have toured the Creation Museum since it opened, making it both popular and profitable, but not built with state funding.
ABC's Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.
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