Evel Knievel Museum co-founder says possible new chapter exciting, bittersweet

Evel Knievel Museum joined in on the "Travel Together" project.
Evel Knievel Museum joined in on the "Travel Together" project.
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 3:52 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Evel Knievel Museum is in the midst of a deal that could move it from Capitol City to Sin City.

Museum co-found Mike Patterson, whose family also owns Historic Topeka Harley Davidson, said the move is not a done deal, but confirmed they and the Knievel family are in talks with a Las Vegas developer.

Patterson’s spoke with 13 NEWS after reports made by a Las Vegas newspaper said the museum would relocate. If a move would be finalized, Patterson said it would not happen for at least a couple years. He said the decision largely lies with the Knievel family, with whom the museum has partnered since its inception.

“The Knievel family would love to see it in Las Vegas,” Patterson said. “It’s exciting to think about the possibility of what it could be in Las Vegas, but not having it here - it’s been a passion project for all of us, so it’s tough.”

The museum has been honored with various awards, had great reviews and has gotten national exposure. Patterson said it’s what caught the developer’s eye - they approached the Topeka team with the possibility. If the move happens, the Topeka team would install and operate the Vegas attraction.

“We are not selling to somebody,” Patterson said. “They believe in us. They’ve seen what we’ve created.”

The museum opened its doors in May 2017 as the first expansive museum dedicated to the legendary motorcycle daredevil. Since then, it’s attracted visitors from all 50 states and 68 countries, winning national and international awards.

The museum is receiving transient guest tax dollars. Patterson said it’s money from out of town guests that’s paid out over time, not up front. He said they averaged 25,000 guests a year - making it a good investment.

“We’ve more than paid for ourselves along the way,” Patterson said. “If we don’t have an attraction here, we shouldn’t get any further transient guest tax money. I wouldn’t accept it. It wouldn’t be right.”

Patterson said his staff already is brainstorming new attractions to fill the museum space, should the move happen. That’s good news to Sean Dixon, president of Visit Topeka.

Dixon said he was disappointed to hear the museum might move, but is also excited at the possibilities of something new.

“New attractions are always exciting,” Dixon said. “Their team is capable of doing some amazing work.”

If the move does happen, Patterson said Vegas visitors would learn Topeka’s role in Evel’s history, and the Capital City would continue to be the backdrop for the 4D motorcycle experience!

“Topeka will always be the beginning of this museum and will always be part of the story,” he said.

A story Patterson says has been a thrilling ride to operate alongside the dealership his family has owned for 71 years.

“It wasn’t something we planned but it’s been awesome,” he said. “The people we’ve met, the people we come in contact with on a daily basis - it’s mind boggling.”

Patterson also stressed any move by the museum would not impact the Harley Davidson dealership, which operates independently of the museum.

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