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National Corvette Museum planning expansion

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Images courtesy National Corvette Museum.

The National Corvette Museum (NCM) and the associated NCM Motorsports Park, both in Bowling Green, Kentucky, have seen their share of adversity in recent years, including a Corvette-swallowing sinkhole and a lawsuit over excessive noise filed by residents of a development adjacent to the track. Both issues have been resolved, and as Corvette Blogger reports, the museum and the race track have announced plans for expansion in the coming years.

The NCM will be constructing an addition to add more exhibit and office space, though any groundbreaking is still likely three years off. Executive director Wendell Strode expects the process of generating approved architectural renderings to take about a year, followed by what he projects to be a two-year capital campaign to raise the funds necessary for construction. In the interim, the NCM will renovate the existing Performance and Gateway exhibit areas, with work beginning soon and stretching into the (lower-traffic) winter months.

Today, the NCM displays around 90-100 cars at any given time. Of these, roughly half are owned by the museum, with the other half consisting of loans from both private and corporate benefactors, primarily General Motors. The museum currently owns 81 vehicles — meaning that about 36 are in storage at any given time — plus an estimated 800-1,000 artifacts, of which only a fraction can be displayed. Today, storage space is shared with the museum’s facilities department, which may not be ideal for preservation of vehicles or artifacts.

The NCM Board of Directors has recently approved the construction of a dedicated 12,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled warehouse dedicated to the storage of museum-owned vehicles and artifacts. As curator Derek Moore points out, the NCM will be publishing a “wish list” of Corvette models it would like to see donated, as the museum currently does not own an example of every model year Corvette. The new storage building, once complete, will facilitate the management of the collection as it grows in future years, and will also provide the opportunity for “Behind the Scenes” tours, which have proven to be a popular attraction at other museums.

A 2014 aerial view of the NCM (foreground) and the NCM Motorsports Park, split by Interstate 65.

The NCM Motorsports Park has reportedly settled litigation with residents of Clark Circle, and noise-monitoring equipment remains in place both in the residential neighborhood and at the NCM, located across Interstate 65. The NCM Board of Directors recently approved the purchase of an additional 205 acres adjacent to the track, as the current property owners were no longer willing to extend the NCM’s option to buy beyond its current expiration date. Along with other recent property acquisitions, the track’s footprint has expanded from the current 200 acres to approximately 425 acres, though it isn’t yet clear how the additional property will be used.

Some within the NCM Board would like to see the track expanded, while others envision construction of condominiums (or “autominiums,” as Strode referred to them) targeted to enthusiast drivers. A third option might be the construction of additional commercial buildings, as Bowling Green is currently seeing increased demand for office and manufacturing space.

The track is poised to take advantage of this as well, and will develop the 10.5 acres in front of the facility to create the Motorsports Business Park. Plans call for a 30,170-square-foot commercial building, to be marketed in conjunction with the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, which has proven successful in attracting automotive- and performance-themed businesses to the area. The local Economic Development Authority will have a hand in the planning and construction of the building, as well.

Should this venture prove profitable, space exists to construct an additional 40,000-square-foot building plus an additional 10,000-square-foot building, even before the new 205-acre parcel is factored in. In addition, the NCM Motorsport Park has its first 7,500-square-foot rental garage – targeted to track driving enthusiasts looking for car and tool storage – roughly 80-percent leased, and is constructing a second such building to meet anticipated demand. Should the need for more space arise, the track has the infrastructure to build four additional garages of comparable size in the future.