Thursday, December 23, 2010

Preliminary OK for Noah's Ark theme park tax breaks; green light for Speedway

FRANKFORTA state tourism board gave preliminary approval Monday for a religious theme park to apply for up to $37 million in state tax incentives.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority also gave final approval Monday for the Kentucky Speedway to collect up to $20.5 million in sales tax breaks over 10 years. The deal will allow the Northern Kentucky race track to recoup up to 25 percent of the $82 million it is spending on an expansion that will allow it to host a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

The Kentucky Speedway is slated to hold its first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in July.

The six-member board voted unanimously to approve the incentives for the Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County and to give preliminary approval to the Ark Encounter park in Grant County.

The centerpiece of the Ark Encounter park will be a 500- by-75-foot wooden ark, billed as a replica of the biblical Noah's Ark. The proposed project has garnered national and international attention, with critics questioning whether granting state tax incentives to the project would violate laws separating church and state.

The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet will employ a third-party consultant to do an independent analysis of financial projections for the park.

If the consultant finds the project won't generate enough economic activity, the board could decide not to grant the full 25 percent return on the $150 million investment over 10 years. It also could decide not to grant any incentives.

It probably will take about four months to complete the independent analysis, tourism officials said Monday....................

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