Corvette enthusiasts flock to celebrate National Corvette Museum anniversary

Visitors at the National Corvette Museum look at the concept car display. The National Corvette Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. Jake Pope/HERALD

Stephanie Jessie

The National Corvette Museum, which has served the community as a magnet for car enthusiasts worldwide, is celebrating 20 years in business this week.

Opened in 1994 by a group of Corvette enthusiasts, the museum is a non-profit facility designed to archive a piece of American history and share it with the world.

“Some Corvette enthusiasts got together back in the ‘80s and were wanting a repository for the history of the cars,” Katie Frassinelli, the marketing and communications manager at the National Corvette Museum, said. “They were looking into where they wanted the building, at the same time that the Corvette plant had just located in Bowling Green and had the same idea.”

With over 70 cars on display, the museum features everything from the very first Corvette to the 2014 version.

“Most of the cars are on loan from private individuals,” Frassinelli said. “The museum owns about 50 Corvettes and we typically borrow someone’s Corvette for about a year to display it. We also borrow Corvettes from General Motors, so our displays are ever changing.”

When General Motors refused to financially assist in order to avoid favoritism among their cars, the museum relied on owners to help.

“There was a gentleman that said, ‘If you build a museum with display space, I will donate my 1953 Corvette,’ which is the first year Corvettes were made and there were only 300 of them, so that was an offer too good to refuse,” Frassinelli said.

For the past 20 years, visitors have come from around the world to see the history of this iconic car, which also brings in thousands of hotel-staying, gas-buying and restaurant-eating tourists to the community each year.

Ron Norgard from Omaha, Nebraska said he thinks the museum is a special place. 

“We’ve been here five times,” he said.

Norgard had a Corvette as a kid and left it on cement blocks when he left for Vietnam. Once he came home, he married and had kids, causing him to sell the car until his kids were on their own. He has owned eight Corvettes in his life.

“We haven’t been here since the sinkhole, so we wanted to stop and see it,” said Norgard. “This time last year we were standing there.”

In a city built on top of the world’s largest cave system, sinkholes aren’t normally a big surprise. However, when eight priceless Corvettes fell into 40-foot sinkhole last spring, the world took notice.

“The sinkhole has been very popular,” Frassinelli said.

Although final plans aren’t finished, construction on the sinkhole is planned to begin this fall and is expected to take six months to complete.

“We’re hoping to keep a portion of it so people can still come and see a little bit of it,” Frassinelli said. “The SkyDome building was our largest display place in the museum; it housed a little over 20 cars. [The sinkhole] ate up the majority of our display space.”

While most of the cars will be restored, some just aren’t worth as much as the restoration would cost, giving the museum no choice but to keep them in their current state on display.

The sinkhole, though just a rumble of fate, has now cemented itself as part of the museum’s history and will be on prominent display for anniversary celebrations.

The museum is expecting over 10,000 visitors a day to join in the anniversary activities this weekend. For $25 for four days, fans are given access to the museum: including a meet and greet with Corvette authors, seeing the infamous sinkhole, and discussing their favorite and least favorite ‘vette features to a team of Corvette designers.

“The seats were an issue in the past, so they did a major overhaul of the seats for the 2014 model,” Frassinelli said.

Frassinelli said the change came from designers meeting with Corvette enthusiasts at the museum. 

Participants also have access to the brand new Motorsports Park, a race track opening on Aug. 28.

“People could sponsor acres for $15,000 a piece, and it could either be a tax-deductible donation or they could cash it in to use the track later,” Frassinelli said.

While at the park, owners can ride in the passenger seat while professional drivers test their cars on the track. The C7R, the new Corvette race car, will do some test laps.

“It’s kind of like a NASCAR car, but I think better,” Frassinelli said. “It’s definitely cooler looking.”

As parking is limited, shuttles will be transporting visitors between the museum and the park.

The museum is open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for WKU students, and $5 for children.