Sinkhole unexpected boon for Kentucky Corvette museum
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — For years, just enough hard-core classic car lovers and curious travelers wandered through the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky to keep the doors open. Now, because an enormous sinkhole swallowed eight pristine models of vintage muscle, attendance has skyrocketed.
And visitors are as eager to peer into the chasm as they are to see the ‘Vettes, if not more so.
“The response to this has been bigger than anyone could have ever imagined,” said Katie Frassinelli, a spokeswoman for the museum, which stands just off Interstate 65 in Bowling Green. “On the one hand, we don’t want to be known as the sinkhole museum. But on the other hand, it’s bringing a lot of people that may not have otherwise come.”
When the earth opened up in February, stunned museum officials first saw it as a devastating setback as they assessed the wreckage to the cars and building. The eight damaged cars — with a total value believed to exceed $1 million — toppled like toys amid rocks, concrete and dirt.
In the months since, business has shifted into overdrive, a welcome development for an attraction that struggled years ago to stay afloat. Since the museum reopened after a one-day closure, attendance is up nearly 50 percent from the same period a year ago; the museum has averaged about 150,000 visitors a year. Sign-ups for museum memberships are rising fast. Merchandising has started, with sinkhole-related shirts, postcards and prints in the gift shop.
Museum officials say it’s shaping up as the biggest prolonged surge in the attraction’s nearly 20-year history, much of it because of the giant hole and damaged cars exhumed from the abyss.
“We would not have even stopped had it not been for the hole,” said Luke Smith of Lima, Ohio, who visited with his family after touring nearby Mammoth Cave National Park.