By Steve Bittenbender
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - Officials at the National Corvette Museum will make lemonade out of lemons on Thursday when they mark the one-year anniversary of a sinkhole that damaged or destroyed eight models of the classic sports car but proved a surprising boon for the museum.
The sinkhole, which cratered a showroom floor, could have been catastrophic for the Bowling Green, Kentucky, museum.
Security camera footage capturing the collapse generated more than 8 million views on YouTube and garnered worldwide media attention.
The buzz generated didn't stop there as more than 250,000 people visited the museum last year, representing a 67 percent spike from 2013. That led to a need for more staff, museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli said.
"We just started having different challenges that we never faced before," she said. "But it was a good thing because it meant additional revenue for the museum."
That's why officials are holding a "lemonade toast" to mark the anniversary.
Initially, museum officials wanted to get the cars out quickly and safely and make repairs to the museum. But as the story gained traction, visitors were interested in seeing the sinkhole itself.
So, Frassinelli said, officials held off on filling the hole until November. That work was completed last month, and the floor is close to being completed and ready for exhibits.
No one was injured as the collapse happened early in the morning before the museum opened, but only three of the cars were considered salvageable for restoration.
One of them, a 2009 model, will return to the museum Thursday as part of the anniversary event.The ZR1 will be one of more than 80 Corvette models on display at the museum.
But museum officials are working to turn the non-restorable lemons into lemonade as well. The destroyed cars will be part of a planned sinkhole exhibit, Frassinelli said.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Eric Beech)