Last chance to visit
the Corvette Sinkhole
By RICH FOLEY
Once again, I’ve let another summer go by without any major vacation activity. In fairness, I should mention that there was a trip to Defiance in April to drive through Independence Dam State Park. The drive through the park, while enjoyable, was much shorter than the journey to get there.
Then there was a jaunt to Bryan, highlighted, if you could call it that, by a stop at the local Goodwill. I did manage to score a copy of a Carl Hiaasen novel I hadn’t read. I suppose you could call that a successful trip.
The biggest excursion, at least the longest one so far this year, was a journey all the way to Chelsea to see the Chelsea Teddy Bear Museum and Factory. Unfortunately, since the last time I was there, a big portion of the structure has been turned into a tavern. I hope the bears are staying on their side of the building.
As is always the case when I’ve been in Chelsea on a Saturday, the Jiffy Mix factory, just across the street from the bear museum, was closed to the public. I still need to visit sometime during the week and get a tour. I haven’t seen Jiffy CEO Howdy Holmes since the days when he was driving Indy cars. I wonder if he’d remember me?
On the way back south, a stop was made at what was left of the Irish Hills Towers to take a few photos in case fund raising efforts fall short and they are torn down. Even with the top third or so gone, they make a cool main screen on my TracFone.
Unfortunately, it’s looking like a trip to Kentucky to visit the Corvette Sinkhole won’t be happening. You may have seen the news last February when a massive sinkhole inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green opened up, swallowing eight of the museum’s 27 Corvettes. They were the cream of the museum’s crop, ranging from rare and valuable to one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable. Not only did the news make most television stations and major newspapers, a YouTube video has received well over eight million views. The New York Times said it “may be the best-known sinkhole in history.”
You’d think the disaster, caused by the collapse of a previously unknown cave, would have dealt a serious blow to the museum, what with five of the eight cars being damaged beyond repair and the other three needing major restoration, which will certainly take many months, if not longer. At the time, I’m sure no one thought the calamity would be a financial bonanza.
Amazingly, thousands of people who had no interest in visiting a museum housing rare Corvettes now wanted to visit the famous sinkhole. Attendance jumped 59 percent the first three months after the car-eating sinkhole reared its head, with over 17,000 people visiting in May, compared to about 9,000 in May, 2013. Sales at the museum’s cafe and gift shop were showing healthy increases as well. I wonder if anyone at the museum gift shop thought of selling vials filled with dirt from the sinkhole? That might have been a hot item.
Katie Frassinelli, the museum’s marketing and communications manager, told the New York Times in June that “Because of that sinkhole, we’re getting a lot more general tourists,” adding that they’ve received many comments like “’I’ve driven by here and never stopped, but I really wanted to come see the sinkhole.’”
At that time, museum directors were planning to leave some of the sinkhole intact for curious visitors. There was even some talk about putting a few of the destroyed cars back in the hole, along with constructing a walking bridge over the chasm. But, unfortunately, the sinkhole’s days are numbered.
Earlier this month, even with attendance up 66 percent and revenue up 71 percent in the six months since the collapse, the directors chose to fill in the hole. Ensuring the structural integrity of the rest of the building, along with problems maintaining the proper humidity because of moisture being emitted by the sinkhole contributed to the decision. Construction to reinforce, fill in and cover the hole is expected to take about a year.
While the museum plans to continue displaying the five Corvettes damaged beyond repair, filling in the hole sounds to me a bit like killing the goose that lays golden eggs. If people only wanted to see wrecked cars, couldn’t they just go to a local junkyard?