By Kevin Murphy
(Reuters) - A sinkhole that swallowed eight cars inside the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky will be filled even though it has become a tourist attraction that sharply increased attendance and revenue, the museum’s board decided on Saturday.
The board had voted in June to attempt to keep part of the hole open, but the cost of retaining walls and other construction would exceed $1 million, officials at the museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, said in a statement.
“We really wanted to preserve a portion of the hole so that guests for years to come could see a little bit of what it was like," museum executive director Wendell Strode said in the statement. “But after receiving more detailed pricing, the cost outweighs the benefit.”
The sinkhole, 40 feet (12 meters) wide and 60 feet (18 meters) deep, opened in February because of underground caves, geologists said. The hole, which absorbed part of the museum building, drew curiosity seekers. Attendance over the next four months rose 59 percent from the same period in 2013, officials said.
The eight cars that dropped into the hole ranged in model years from 1962 to 2009. Three will be restored - the 2009 Corvette ZR1 prototype know as the Blue Devil, a 1962 Corvette and a 1992 convertible that was the millionth Corvette produced.
The other five Corvettes were too damaged to be repaired but will remain at the museum to show the effects of the sinkhole, Strode said.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and David Gregorio)