Mike Patterson, owner of a Topeka Harley-Davidson dealership, plans to expand his operation to include a 16,000-square-foot area to accommodate the Evel Knievel Museum, reports the Topeka Capital Journal. According to the report, Patterson expects to draw 100,000 visitors a year to the exhibition he hopes to open this year.
Patterson said after talking with museum leaders countrywide and hearing the enthusiasm for the project, he decided to create a separate museum. A two-month Knievel display in Milwaukee had attracted 50,000 people from around the world.
“It started out as a display,” said Patterson during a viewing of the construction by the Shawnee County commission. “Then we saw the excitement people have around Evel Knievel and the reach that is not just a national reach, but it’s an international reach,” he went on to say.
Robert Craig Knievel, aka Evel Knievel, was a stunt performer and entertainer who during the course of his career, attempted more than 75 awe-inspiring motorcycle ramp-to-ramp jumps, including a failed canyon jump in 1974 using a steam powered rocket, the Skycycle X-2. In his career, he suffered more than 433 bone fractures, securing a position in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime.”
Evel’s working life started in the copper mines as a diamond drill operator, but even then he preferred biking to what he called all this “unimportant stuff.” He was then promoted to a driver, but was fired when he did a “wheelie” with a large earth mover, crashing into the town’s main power line and causing a blackout lasting several hours.
Being unemployed, he got himself into trouble with the law, and ended up in jail on a charge of reckless driving. It was here where he got the nickname “Evel.” Being a thrill seeker, he was always ready to accept new challenges and participated in professional rodeos and ski jumping events, winning the Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association Class A Men’s ski jumping championship in 1959.
After a spell in the army, Knievel returned to his home town and started a semi-pro hockey team. He persuaded the 1960 Czechoslovakian Olympic hockey team to play against his team in a warm up game to raise money and promote his team, but was expelled from the game. When the Czechoslovakians went to collect money the team was promised, they discovered the game receipts had been stolen, forcing the U.S. Olympic Committee to pay the expenses to avoid an international incident.
After the birth of his first son, Evel started the Sur-Kill Guide Service. The business flourished, as he offered his clients a money-back guarantee if they did not get the game animal they wanted. It was only a matter of time until game wardens came to the realization he was taking his clients hunting in the Yellowstone National Park, and ordered him to stop his poaching, resulting in the end of the business.
In an attempt to support his family, he started a motorcycle daredevil show. As sole promoter, he rented the venue, wrote the press releases, set up the show, and was his own master of ceremonies. His first real stunt was a jump across a 20-foot-long box of rattlesnakes and two mountain lions. He then found a sponsor and hired a team to take care of the logistics enabling him to concentrate on his jumps. After injury broke up his team, he started traveling from town to town, making solo appearances, gradually adding more challenging stunts to his repertoire.
A number of planned exhibits in the museum will include science, technology, engineering and math lessons, with one exhibit detailing the physics involved in planning a jump. Another exhibit will allow visitors to sit on a bike and experience a virtual reality jump.