National Corvette Museum

National Corvette Museum

A ten-county region in southern Kentucky is seeing the biggest increase in tourism revenue in the state.

The region including Warren, Barren, Simpson, and Logan counties experienced a 6.7 percent jump in tourism and travel spending in 2014 versus the year before. A report from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet says the state saw a 4.4 percent increase in tourism dollars last year. 

Telia Butler, with the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, says record-setting attendance at the National Corvette Museum was one reason why the southern Kentucky region saw its gains.

“We definitely can thank the sinkhole that happened in February of last year. They made lemonade out of lemons out of what could have been a very negative thing over what happened over there,” Butler said, referring to the sinkhole that opened up beneath the Corvette Museum’s skydome, swallowing up several vintage vehicles.

Far from driving visitors away from the museum, the massive publicity created by the story drew visitors from around the world to the Bowling Green attraction.

Kevin Willis

Staff members with the National Corvette Museum are celebrating the progress that’s been made one year after a sinkhole opened up beneath the facility.

Six of the eight vintage Corvettes that fell into the hole have been fully restored, with the remaining two still being worked on.

Meanwhile, reconstruction of the area where the sinkhole struck beneath the museum’s skydome is expected to be complete by mid-summer. Nearly 4,000 tons of crushed limestone have filled in the sinkhole. Zach Massey, an engineer with a Bowling Green-based construction firm leading the renovations, says it’s impossible to predict whether another sinkhole might hit the area.

“If it swallows the building, we can’t stop that. But there are some additional settlement and movement (where the sinkhole occurred) that we can anticipate. We know there are some loose rocks down there. We had some Ph.D’s go down there and map it, and had some professional geologists go in and take a look at it.”

Abbey Oldham

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the day a sinkhole opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, swallowing up eight vintage vehicles.

While the sinkhole damaged the facility, it also led to a spike in attention and attendance at the museum.

In the age of the internet and social media, the images of eight classic corvettes falling from the floor of the Bowling Green museum into a sinkhole went viral.

YouTube footage of the event has been viewed more than 8.5 million times, and museum officials say they saw a 67-percent increase in attendance for the year.

You can see a photo slideshow of the Corvettes being extracted from the sinkhole here.

National Corvette Museum

General Motors Co. says work will begin in January to restore two prized Chevrolet Corvettes extracted from a sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green

GM has received two of the classic vehicles that were among eight gobbled up by a 40-foot-wide by 60-foot deep hole in February at the museum. Among them is the 1 millionth Corvette, a 1992 model, which had significant damage.

National Corvette Museum

The 2009 Corvette known as the Blue Devil is back at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green following its restoration by General Motors. 

The car was one of the eight that was swallowed by the gigantic sinkhole that opened underneath the museum in February.  The restored Blue Devil was unveiled last week, but hadn't completed its journey back to Bowling Green until Tuesday.

Two more damaged Corvettes will be restored; the other five will become part of a future museum exhibit documenting the sinkhole.

National Corvette Museum

The first car pulled from the sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green is looking all sleek again. 

General Motors unveiled the restored 2009 Blue Devil this week, which was the least damaged of the eight cars that fell into the sinkhole in February. 

"I think it's exciting not just for us, but everyone who's been following this story," says NCM Marketing and Communications Director Katie Frassinelli.  "As soon as pictures surfaced on the Internet of the restored car there were a lot of cheers.  Everyone thought it looked beautiful and were excited to see the first step in what will be an an eight-month process."

Starting Monday, the Skydome where the sinkhole occurred will be closed for repair work which will take eight months.  Afterwards, the restored Blue Devil will return to the Skydome where it will be on display. 

GM also plans to restore the One-Millionth Corvette and the 1962 Tuxedo Black Corvette.

Click here for a video by Chevrolet on the restoration of the 2009 Blue Devil.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

More than six months after a 45-foot sinkhole swallowed eight classic cars at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, the museum’s board of directors has decided the fate of the hole and the Corvettes that were rescued from its depths.

Earlier this summer, board members had strongly considered leaving part of the sinkhole intact and making it part of the museum experience.  But the estimated costs associated climbed to over a million dollars.

On Saturday morning, as thousands of Corvette fans buzzed around the museum, the board decided the sinkhole would be completely filled in a project set to begin this November.

“We really wanted to preserve a portion of the hole so that guests for years to come could see a little bit of what it was like, but after receiving more detailed pricing, the cost outweighs the benefit,” the museum’s executive director, Wendell Strode said in a written statement.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

The cars are already buzzing around the new Motorsports Park track across the highway from the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.  Museum officials held a grand opening ceremony Thursday morning. 

Bill Thomas from Corpus Christi, Texas is among the thousands of Corvette owners who made the trip. He says he’s anxious to take his 2014 yellow convertible Z-51 on the track.

“I haven’t been on this track yet, but we had a police escort from Little Rock, and we got up to 112 miles an hour coming up here,” said Thomas.

Corvette Museum Executive Director Wendell Strode says plans originally called for only one portion of the track to be open by now, but says the project has come in ahead of schedule.  

“Because of the great support of yourselves, corporate sponsors, acre club members and many other folks that have stepped up,” Strode told the crowd gathered for the grand opening ceremony.  “Not only do we have a two-mile West course, we have a one-mile East course, a three-mile combined course and a 22-acre paddock.”

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

For 33 years, hundreds of the members of the very tight-knit community of Corvette owners make their way to Bowling Green for the Corvette Homecoming.  It’s happened every summer since 1981 and heat can usually be the biggest weather concern. But this year, the problem was rain.

There was a steady drizzle all day Saturday in Bowling Green – not conducive to walking around and looking at Corvettes in a parking lot. The cars were still there, just not in the numbers as have been seen in past years.  Most of the action was taking place inside, under the roof of the Sloan Convention Center where some of the most prized Corvettes were on display.

Fans of the car from all over the country were in attendance. For some, they make it a yearly pilgrimage.

“Just the camaraderieship. Mingling with people, having fun, talking Corvette stuff.  Good stuff,” said Cedric Wingo of Clarksville, Tennessee.

National Corvette Museum

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green has decided to turn its unintended attraction into a permanent one. 

The board of directors met Wednesday and discussed repairs options for the Skydome, the site of a February 12 sinkhole that swallowed eight cars on display. 

Preliminary plans include keeping a small portion of the hole open and building over it a bridge.

"We don't know yet if we will do that, but we hope that it can be a part of it so people can walk over it and look down, and possibly place one or two of the sinkhole cars back in there to give people an idea of the depth and what it looked like when it happened," says Marketing and Communications Director Katie Frassinelli.                                

The sinkhole has attracted lots of gawkers with the museum reporting a 59 percent increase in visitors since March compared to the same time period last year. 

Construction plans also call for converting the Skydome from two levels to one, which would enlarge the display area and make it easier to get the cars in and out of the structure. 

Repair work will start in September.   

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