The Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant. Photo courtesy GM Media.
General Motors’s Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has offered public tours of one kind or another since its opening in June of 1981. In recent years, three tours per week day have been offered (excluding blackout dates), conducted by student interns from Western Kentucky University, but in peak periods (such as summer vacation season) this isn’t enough to meet demand. Beginning in April, public tours will be taken over by the National Corvette Museum, which already hosts VIP tours and Corvette Delivery Program tours.
The most significant change will be an increase in frequency of tours. Instead of offering tours only at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., they’ll now be conducted at 15-minute intervals, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and running through 1:45 p.m., the departure time for the final visit of the day. The cost of the tours has gone up slightly as well: Under GM’s supervision, the one-hour, one-mile walking tour cost $7.00 per person, while the museum will now charge $10 for adults and $5 for children age 10-16. For safety reasons, children under 10 are not allowed on plant tours.
Assembling the new Corvette Stingray. Photo by AJ Mast for Chevrolet.
As before, visitors wishing to tour the plant must comply with safety requirements that mandate closed-toe and closed-heel shoes, and spike heels are not permitted. The plants “no electronics” rule applies to visitors as well as employees, so cell phones, cameras, tablets and any other potential recording devices must be left in the car (no secure storage is available inside the plant). To ensure that no one tries to skirt these rules, backpacks, purses and fanny packs are also prohibited.
Though “walk ins” are permitted, the National Corvette Museum encourages visitors to plan ahead and book reservations online, in advance. Under GM’s supervision, peak period tours would fill quickly, occasionally saddling visitors with a multi-hour wait to tour the Corvette assembly line. With tours departing every 15 minutes, the museum hopes to address this in advance of the busy summer months.
Kai Spande, Bowling Green Assembly Plant manager, summed up the reason for the change, saying, “We are in the business to build cars. The National Corvette Museum is in the hospitality and tourism business and currently lead a number of tour programs in the plant, including R8C Museum Delivery Experience, VIP Tours, Photo Albums and Buyers’ Tours. It was only fitting to add the public tour program to their list of offerings.”
The Bowling Green Assembly Plant is also in the midst of a $439 million expansion, which will see the addition of a 450,000 square foot paint shop, almost doubling the size of the facility. The investment will also include the installation of a Dry Scrubber Booth technology and a limestone handling system to reduce waste; LED lighting for energy savings and improved visibility; new, more efficient paint robots; and longer, more efficient paint curing ovens. The work began in the summer of 2015 and is expected to run through the summer of 2017.
As before, the plant is closed on weekends and during “blackout periods,” generally around holidays. For a complete list of these dates, or to book an online tour reservation, visit CorvetteMuseum.org/Visit/Plant-Tours/.