BOWLING GREEN, KY (WAVE) - The National Corvette Museum Board of Directors decided on Wednesday to keep permanently open a smaller portion of the sinkhole that swallowed eight cars in the facility's Skydome building last winter, pending a review of further information.
The board considered three options: filling the sinkhole and replacing the floor so the building returned to its previous state, keeping the entire sinkhole open or keeping a smaller portion of the hole open.
With 14 of the 16 board members present, the group decided to move forward with the third option. As it stands, this option would include an opening approximately 25' by 45' wide and 30' deep, providing views into a portion of the cave. The opening could include a dirt embankment where one or two of the damaged cars could be placed for display.
Additional information was requested on the potential impact of the room's humidity on any cars displayed, the temperature control of the room and any associated impact on the museum's utility costs, and costs associated with maintaining the Skydome if the hole is left partially open. The additional information could result in the plans being modified.
"You come in and you have all these displays of the history and life of Corvette," said Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction, "and then you come into the Skydome to see this new part of history. I think it will always be a part of history, but will the increased attendance continue? I don't know, but it will always be of high interest."
According to museum Chief Financial Officer Christy Thomas, there has been a 59 percent increase in the number of visitors to the museum from March to June 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013. The museum has also seen a 71 percent increase in admissions income, a 58 percent increase in Corvette Store sales, a 46 percent increase in Corvette Cafe sales and a 72 percent increase in memberships, Thomas said.
"If the interest in the exhibit wanes or if, down the road, we decided that we don't want the hole any longer, there is always an option to put the room back how it was," Thomas said.
"We have to look at creative ways to generate interest in the museum said Executive Director Wendell Strode. "It would be so much easier to just be a regular automotive museum with our Corvettes on display, but we have to think outside the box."
The construction plans also include eliminating the two-level display space that once existed in the Skydome, making it easier to get cars in and out and increasing the number of cars that can be accommodated for display.
The sinkhole and eight damaged Corvettes will be left on display "as is" through the end of August. Construction is slated to begin in September.
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