The people behind the National Corvette Museum really know how to turn
lemons into lemonade.
National Corvette Museum Board Meets Regarding Sinkhole Fate
The National Corvette Museum Board of Directors met today to discuss
and decide on the future of the Skydome building. Three primary
options were presented: 1) Fill the sinkhole and replace the floor so
that the building is much like it was previously; 2) Keep the entire
sinkhole as is; 3) Keep a smaller portion of the hole open.
With 14 of the 16 board members present, the group decided to move
forward with Option 3, keeping a portion of the sinkhole open, but
pending review of further information. This option as it stands would
include an opening approximately 25' by 45' wide, and 30' deep,
providing views down into a portion of the cave. The opening could
have some existing ground and rock face, and a dirt embankment where
one or two of the cars could be placed for display.
Each board member expressed how the decision was not about them or
what they thought but rather what is best for the Museum, and what
most of the members and visitors would want. "I have a
responsibility to represent the people who sent me here. We all do for
our geographic areas," said a Board Member. "My own personal
opinion changed as time went on. I come here today with my marching
orders from my members. About two thirds of my organization says to
leave it open in some form or fashion," he added.
After much discussion the Board decided that additional information
was necessary before making a final decision. Some changes discussed
could affect the cost estimate. More information was also requested on
the impact on the humidity in the room and potential impact on any
cars displayed within; the temperature control of the room and any
associated impact on the Museum's utility costs; and review and
consideration of any other costs associated with the maintenance of
the Skydome if the hole is left partially open. The additional
information could result in the plans being modified.
Mike Murphy, C.E.O. of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction, was on
hand to answer questions and provide his feedback on the proposals.
"You come in and you have all these displays of the history and
life of Corvette, and then you come into the Skydome to see this new
part of history," said Murphy. "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."
As expected, the group deliberated greatly as to what is the right
Christy Thomas, CFO for the Museum, shared that an estimate had been
provided for filling in Option 3's small portion of the sinkhole
should the Museum decide later to end the exhibit. "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.
Thomas shared with the Board some numbers including a 59% increase
in the number of visitors from March to June 23, 2014 compared to the
same time period in 2013. The Museum has also seen an increase of 71%
in admissions income, 58% increase in Corvette Store sales, 46%
increase in Corvette Café sales, 72% increase in Membership for a
total of a 65% increase in these revenue areas overall.
"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 included eliminating the two level display
space that once existed in the Skydome, both making it easier to get
cars in and out, and increasing the number of cars that can be
accommodated for display.
"We only have one chance to do this right. As a board, we owe it
to everyone to explore all possibilities, to completely investigate
all financial aspects and impacts, and to make a fully informed
decision," added one Board Member.
Plans are still on track to leave the sinkhole and 8 Corvettes on
display "as-is" through the end of August and then begin
construction in September. The Museum will celebrate its 20th
Anniversary with an event August 27-30, and the Grand Opening of the
NCM Motorsports Park is slated for August 28. "We have a lot to
be thankful for right now," said Strode. "We really want to
thank all those who have stood by us during this difficult time, and
we are looking forward to celebrating with everyone in August! "
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