Team members involved with the recovery and remediation process of the sinkhole that opened up underneath the National Corvette Museum in February met up to discuss the future of the Skydome and other Museum construction plans last week. The team saw presentations of all findings in regards to the hole, including drillings, microgravity readings and the Western Kentucky University cave and karst team’s exploration research of the hole.
Dr. Jason Polk of WKU noted the void discovered when the hole opened up extends in two directions, one leading from the Skydome room towards the Museum’s parking lot, and another leading from the Skydome to a nearby pond. According to Polk, both cave areas start approximately 50-feet underground.
“You don’t typically have sinkholes without caves or voids of some type below them, so this finding was not surprising,” Polk said.
The Kentucky area is no stranger to cave networks or sinkholes. Polk said many Kentucky residents drive through and around sinkholes and caves every day, with some being miles wide. There are dozens of known, mapped-out caves within the Bowling Green city limits, and over 200 documented caves in Warren County.
During the meeting, the team reviewed construction documentation from the building of the museum and the Skydome. They found that prior to construction of the building, a geo-technical test was completed in accordance with normal standards which at the time, didn’t 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. “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.”
Much of the team believes the sinkhole was caused by the partial collapse of a cave roof, although the results from data collection are still pending. Several things may have caused the roof to collapse, including extra weight from clay soils that were saturated by heavy rain. The NCM says 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.”
The team is currently exploring ways to rebuild the floor of the Skydome. One of the plans included drilling with ‘micro piles’ and then adding beams to ensure the floor is fully secure. Other ideas involved preserving a portion of the floor to help tell the story of the sinkhole, which is now a piece of both Corvette and museum 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,” Wendell Strode, Executive Director of the Museum said in a statement. “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.”
Representatives from General Motors will be meeting with officials from the NCM next month to inspect each of the ‘Great 8’ and determine which ones are appropriate to be restored. Any Corvettes that are not restored will be kept on permanent display at the NCM as part of preserving and telling the story of the February 12th Sinkhole Collapse.