The former space of the Kentucky Basketball Museum in Lexington Center was morgue-like after the underperforming hoops shrine dribbled away. But the revamped venue is coming back to life this weekend with the arrival of Bodies Revealed.
The blockbuster exhibit is the inaugural show at the new Lexington Center Museum and Gallery, a 10,000-square-foot space leaders say will fill a void in Lexington entertainment venues and get the city in on the burgeoning market for touring exhibitions.
Lexington Center CEO and President Bill Owen said the idea for the museum and gallery came from a combination of trying to figure out what to do with the mothballed museum space, which had been empty since July 2008, and fielding calls from Bodies and other touring exhibits looking for a place to land in Lexington.
The center had hosted one other similar exhibit, Ink and Blood: Dead Sea Scrolls to Gutenberg, in its Heritage Hall in the summer of 2005. But Owen said scheduling touring exhibits, which generally sit down in a location for four to six months, was problematic with Lexington Center's active convention schedule.
The former basketball museum, however, had no scheduling conflicts. What's more, it already had a museum-like structure and accessories such as lighting that could accommodate touring shows.
"I said what if we turned it into a white box where these shows could come in and plop down in the space?" Owen said. "It could stay open year-round and only really be closed when it's transitioning from one exhibit to the next."
Bodies exhibit promoter Brian Bouquet said that was a great idea.
"Lexington was an untapped market, and that facility is perfect," said Bouquet, president of The Event Agency, which handles Bodies and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.
From Bouquet's perspective, the Lexington Center Museum and Gallery had everything for a new space including its physical structure, central location, staff and name recognition for Lexington Center.
No other exhibits have been announced, but Bouquet said the space would be perfect for other traveling exhibits such as Titanic, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, Da Vinci: The Genius, which is at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville through Sept. 18, and others.
"There are about 20 to 30 products out there, and most things that are touring would work tremendously well in that space," Bouquet said of Lexington Center.
Bodies Revealed comes with name recognition, having made headlines when it opened in New York and other major cities. The exhibit is an exploration of the human body using actual bodies that have been preserved through a polymer process for medical research and education.
"It's like a crash course in human anatomy for $14," Bouquet said, citing the adult ticket price.
In other similarly sized cities, Bouquet said, Bodies has drawn crowds of 68,000 people over four months in Omaha, Neb., and 80,000 in Greensboro, N.C. Neither he nor Owen has a target attendance number for Lexington.
"For us, it is success just that we're here," Bouquet said.
And for Owen, it is success to give the museum space another shot.