Operation Corvette Plus Team Meets to Review Sinkhole Findings, Discuss Skydome Plans
Last Tuesday, team members involved with the National Corvette Museum’s sinkhole recovery and remediation met to discuss the future of the Skydome and construction plan moving forward. Presentations were made of all of the findings, from drillings, to microgravity readings, and the WKU cave and karst team’s exploration into the hole.
Dr. Jason Polk with WKU shared that the void discovered beneath the Skydome extended in two directions– one leading from the Skydome towards the Museum’s truck parking lot, and the other leading from the Skydome towards the pond. Both cave areas start approximately 50 feet underground. According to Dr. Polk, “You don’t typically have sinkholes without caves or voids of some type below them, so this finding was not surprising.” He also indicated that in our area of Kentucky we drive through and around sinkholes and caves every day, with some types of sinkholes even being miles wide. There are dozens of known, mapped caves in the Bowling Green city limits, and over 200 documented caves in Warren County.
Dr. Polk stated that they found mineral deposits which are indicative of dry conditions in the northern extension of the cave. This information means that this portion of our cave is likely thousands of years old and has been there since long before the Museum was constructed. The cave also probably hasn’t had flowing water in a very long time.
The team reviewed the construction documentation from the original building and Skydome. Prior to construction of the building a geo-technical test was completed in accordance with normal standards. They found nothing to indicate any problems. “Normally if there is enough rock, it doesn’t matter what is below it,” said Danny Daniel of Scott, Murphy & Daniel Construction. Daniel also indicated that rebar was not required in the concrete flooring of the Skydome. “It’s no different than the floor of your garage at home. Rebar was not needed to support the weight of the cars in the Skydome,” he added. [EDITORS NOTE: SMD Construction did not build the original portion of the Museum]
The team thinks that our sinkhole was caused by the collapse of a portion of a cave roof, although they are still compiling data. Several things could have caused this, including the extra weight from clay soils above the roof becoming saturated from heavy rain. The team stressed that there is no reason for anyone to be any more concerned for safety here than any other area prone to significant karst development and sinkhole collapse, and it is important to note that much of Bowling Green/Warren County is located in just such an area.
Dr. Polk and Dr. Leslie North, also with WKU Center for Cave and Karst Studies, will be conducting a presentation on Saturday, April 26 at 3:15pm CT on the sinkhole collapse and how it happened. The presentation will be in the Museum's Conference Center.
Moving forward the team is exploring ways to rebuild the Skydome floor. One such plan includes drilling with micro piles then adding beams to ensure the Skydome floor is fully secure. The Museum is also exploring various ideas, which would in some way preserve a portion of the sinkhole, helping to tell the story of what is now Museum and Corvette history. “We will continue to explore these ideas as the process has not moved along far enough to know if keeping a portion of the hole is feasible or not,” said Wendell Strode, Executive Director of the Museum. “The interest in our sinkhole and the rescued Corvettes has been more than expected, and our attendance for March was up 56% over March of last year,” Strode added. “Our special display focusing on this event is now open in our Exhibit Hall. Current plans are to keep the cars on display as they are so that guests through the summer and especially the thousands attending our 20th Anniversary Celebration will have a chance to see the cars and witness the sinkhole for themselves.”
On Thursday the Museum received a donation of a 40th Anniversary “Ruby Red” Corvette. Lynda Patterson of Louisville, Kentucky donated her car in response to the news of the sinkhole swallowing another “Ruby.” The complete release on Ms. Patterson’s car donation is available online here.
Representatives from GM will be meeting with the NCM next month to inspect each of the Great 8 and determine which ones are appropriate to be restored. The Corvettes that are not restored will be kept on permanent display as part of preserving and telling the story of the February 12th Sinkhole Collapse.