Part of Corvette-swallowing sinkhole will be preserved, museum says

Workers use a crane to extract the 1993 40th Anniversary Chevrolet Corvette from the sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum on March 3, 2014.

Photo credit: STEVE FECHT
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The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., will preserve a piece of the 60-foot-wide hole that opened underneath the museum and sunk eight of its historical models in February, the museum’s board of directors decided.

The board voted earlier this week to keep a smaller portion of the hole open -- at about 25 feet by 45 feet wide and 30 feet deep -- and reconstruct the museum’s Skydome around it, as opposed to filling the entire hole or leaving the sinkhole as is. Construction plans are set for September, after the museum’s 20th anniversary celebration in late August.

The natural disaster has proved an attraction for new visitors and has significantly driven revenue. Katie Frassinelli, marketing and communications manager for the museum, said the number of visitors has increased 59 percent since March, and overall revenue has increased 65 percent.

“We’re in the business of educating the public and preserving Corvette’s history,” Frassinelli said. “We see this as an educational opportunity to show people what happened and teach them about sinkholes. The increased attendance number is a side bonus.”

She said a number of visitors have said they usually drive by the museum but over the past few months have been stopping to look at the sinkhole. They end up being “pleasantly surprised” by the Corvette display around by the massive crater.

The eight vehicles damaged in the sinkhole were a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder, a 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil, a 1962 black Corvette, a 1984 PPG Pace Car, a 1992 white 1 millionth Corvette, a 1993 40th anniversary Corvette, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 and a 2009 1.5 millionth Corvette.

General Motors, which loaned the Spyder and Blue Devil, has said it will take the Blue Devil back and restore it for the museum. Frassinelli said the board will decide on three or four additional vehicles to restore based on the extent of damage and has been talking on an off with GM about restoring some of the other models.

She added that vehicle donation interest has increased significantly since February. The Skydome redesign will eliminate its second level, allowing more floor space for vehicle display. Most of the 121 Corvettes on the museum’s campus are on loan from GM or private individuals.

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