Dirt turned on $9 million expansion of Corvette Museum

The Associated Press
Posted on Sun, Nov. 25, 2007

Bulldozers and earth-moving equipment have started digging up dirt for a $9 million expansion of the National Corvette Museum.

Site work for the 47,000-square-foot expansion is scheduled to be complete in the spring, with construction expected to start shortly thereafter.

Wendell Strode, director of the museum, said bids for the work should be awarded in February, with the work beginning in March, weather permitting. Strode hopes the project is complete in early summer 2009 so that the finishing touches, including new grass growing, can be ready for the museum's 15th anniversary on Labor Day that year.

The expansion will add 47,000 square feet to the existing 69,000 square feet and will include a library-archives, an expanded gift store and a conference center with a seating capacity of 400. The center also can be used to display 50 additional cars.

It also will add a dedicated area for inspection, display and pickup of special-delivery Corvettes people order from the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant.

About 17,000-square-feet of the museum will be renovated and 275 parking spaces will be added.

Vicki Fitch, director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the expansion will give tourism in the area a boost.

"They keep adding positive components to the museum that keep it fresh, and that not only entices Corvette enthusiasts to return, but also attracts general leisure travelers who are interested in seeing the things that make Bowling Green special," Fitch said.

Warren County Magistrate James "Doc" Kaelin said an expansion this soon wasn't anticipated when the museum first came about 13 years ago.

"I know there were some people ... who didn't think we needed the museum," Kaelin said. "But is has proven to be a great tourist attraction."

Strode said the expansion is expected to increase attendance by 10 percent over its 140,000 annual visitors. But, Strode said, that won't cover the cost of the construction. The museum has raised $2.6 million for the project and the remainder will come from a loan taken out next year.

Strode agreed with Kaelin that few expected the museum to grow as fast as it has.

"I would think what we are doing now is running ahead of the vision at that particular time," Strode said.