BOWLING GREEN — The National Corvette Museum has gotten a facelift.
The museum recently unveiled a 47,000-square-foot addition and 17,000-square-foot renovation that came with a $10 million price tag.
Museum Executive Director Wendell Strode told the Daily News in Bowling Green that such an expansion was unthinkable 15 years ago when the facility first opened.
"To go from an idea, which originally was what the Corvette was, to both the museum and this expansion involves a lot of people," Strode said.
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Construction on the new project began in November 2007. Now, a year and a half later, the museum measures a total of 115,000 square feet.
The museum boasts a new gift shop, a library and archives center, a conference center, The Corvette Cafe and Corvette Boulevard — an indoor track where new Corvettes are displayed. Corvette buyers can request their new car be sent to the museum, where it will sit until they pick it up.
The new expansion also includes an area where workers prepare the new Corvettes for delivery.
Hundreds of people turned out at the museum last week for the unveiling. They spent time checking out the line of shiny blue, yellow, red, gray and black Corvettes.
Ten-year-old John Thomas Newman of Bowling Green wants a black Corvette one day because black is "a cool color."
"I think it's a fun place to come and get Corvettes," he said.
The museum is an economic engine for Bowling Green, bringing in roughly $22 million to the local economy, the Daily News reported. About 130,000 people from across the globe visit the Corvette museum each year, and, with the expansion and anniversary celebration, about 150,000 will drop by this year, Strode said.
"Our visitors left $305 million here last year due in part to the Corvette and this wonderful museum," said Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The project is a bright spot in the midst of dark times for the automotive industry as General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection and the local Corvette assembly plant prepares to shut down for three weeks in July. It's already been closed most of this year.
But those woes took a back seat to the expansion's unveiling.
"Certainly, we are thankful that the Corvette plant is here and part of the Bowling Green community and just across the street from the Corvette museum," Strode said. "It provides us with ... a great asset and we really want that to continue."