Topeka’s Evel Knievel Museum to show virtual jumps, physics

The announcement that the Evel Knievel museum was going to be built was made on July 17, 2015. This Mack truck used by Knievel was unveiled to local leaders and the press on that day at at the Harley-Davidson store at 21st and Topeka Boulevard. (File - KSNT/Rocky Arnold)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new museum honoring daredevil Evel Knievel will allow visitors to take virtual reality jumps and to understand the physics behind some of his stunts.

Mike Patterson owns a Topeka Harley-Davidson dealership that is being expanded to include a 16,000-square-foot area to house the Evel Knievel Museum, which he expects to open this year. Patterson estimates it’ll draw 100,000 people a year, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Knievel became famous for defying death with several jumps and stunts on his motorcycle, including jumping over 10 trucks at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson in 1971. He died in November 2007.

Patterson said he talked with museum leaders across the country and decided to create a separate museum after hearing enthusiasm for the project. He said a two-month Knievel exhibit in Milwaukee drew 50,000 people from around the world.

“It started out as a display,” Patterson said while showing off construction this week to the Shawnee County Commission. “Then we saw the excitement people have around Evel Knievel and the reach.”

Several planned exhibits will incorporate lessons in science, technology, engineering and math, he said. One exhibit will detail the physics of planning a jump, such as determining the angle, speed, wind resistance and other factors. Museum visitors will input data into an interactive exhibit to see if their jump would be successful. Visitors also will be able to sit on a bike and experience a virtual reality jump.

Visitors also will see the results of some of Knievel’s failed jumps, which caused more than 433 broken bones.

Event space for companies and individuals also will be available, and Patterson said he hopes to partner with the nearby Expocentre to provide festivals.

When he announced the museum last year, Patterson said it would house the largest collection of Knievel memorabilia in the world.

Hundreds of items, including six of Knievel’s bikes, more than a dozen costumes, helmets, photos, pinball and slot machines, are ready for display. Patterson also will display Knievel’s custom-built 1975 Mack Truck, which he used to haul his bikes around the country.

 

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