Gettysburg Museum Officially has an entry fee as of today.
Spectators view the newly restored Cyclorama painting Wednesday afternoon at the new Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. A community open house was held from 3 to 6 p.m., with admissions to the painting and feature film waived to local residents. Beginning today, adult visitors are being charged $7.50 to see the film, painting and artifact museum.
BY SCOT ANDREW PITZER
Times Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, October 2, 2008 6:56 AM EDT
As of today, visitors are being charged to enter the artifact museum at the new Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center.
Revenue projections are not being met at the park’s new $103 million complex, which opened in April. The park and its management partner — the Gettysburg Foundation — feared that $1.78 million would have been lost if immediate changes weren't made to the facility's fee structure.
A new single admission ticket ($7.50 for adults) is being imposed at the visitor center’s three major attractions: the restored Cyclorama painting; a struggling 22-minute film; and the previously free artifact museum.
“Most of the opportunities here are still free,” GNMP Supt. Dr. John A. Latschar said recently, regarding the 6,000 acre battlefield and 139,000 square-foot visitor center. “There is no entrance fee to the battlefield. That’s not the case at other parks. The greatest portion of our building is still free. Obviously, we’re not going to charge people to come into the visitor center for orientation and information, or to go to the bathrooms.”
The fee comes after a 30-day public comment period in which the park and foundation entertained revenue-generating ideas. More than 100 people attended a Sept. 18 workshop at the visitor center to debate the plan, with most opposing an admission fee to the museum.
“It’s not a surprise,” Steinwehr Avenue businessman Eric Uberman, a long-time critic of the visitor center project, said regarding the park’s decision. “I think that everyone at the meeting that night came with the knowledge that the decision was already made.”
More than 500 people, locally and nationally, submitted comments. A statement issued by the park Wednesday afternoon said that 56 percent of the comments favored the revenue-generating proposal.
The proposal generated heat and spirited debate, primarily because of the museum fee — visitors have never been charged to see the park’s artifact gallery, until now. Planning for the new visitor center commenced nearly 14 years ago, and a museum fee was never on the table. Even the park’s General Management Plan of 1999 promises that the artifact museum will remain free. The park is home to more than one million Civil War and Battle of Gettysburg relics, and most of those artifacts were donated to the park.
“The project was never sold to anyone as paying to go into the museum,” said Uberman. “It’s outrageous. It makes you wonder what’s next.”
Park and foundation leaders stress that there were no viable alternatives that would have solved the foundation’s revenue crisis. The foundation uses revenues generated from the visitor center’s cafeteria, book store, and attractions to operate the facility, fund a capital reserve, and to pay down the project’s debt.
In a statement released by the park Wednesday afternoon, when the public comment period closed Monday, the park had received 572 comments from “the Gettysburg area” and “throughout the United States.”
Approximately 56 percent of those comments, according to the park, “were in favor of the proposal” to collect an all-inclusive fee. Also, an additional five percent of the responses were in favor, but suggested lower fees than what were proposed.
In contrast, 34 percent of the responses opposed the proposed change.
Adults are being charged $7.50 for a ticket; youth (ages 6-18) $5.50; seniors and military personnel $6.50. Group discounts, for 16 or more people, are also available. Multi-day passes are available at a discounted rate for two and three day stays, in addition to annual passes for individuals and families.
Also, community appreciation days — during which Adams County residents will be able to roam the entire complex for free — are planned four times annually.
Originally, the foundation had charged $8 to watch a 22-minute film, the visitor center’s lone revenue-generating attraction until the Cyclorama painting opened over the weekend.
Revenue models counted on 33 percent of the building’s visitors watching the movie, but only 18-24 percent were actually purchasing a movie ticket. Initially, the foundation intended to charge $12 to see both the film and Cyclorama, but that plan has been scrapped because of low revenues.
Nearly one million people have explored the massive complex since it opened in mid-April.
Shaun C. Grenan
"(The Fire Zouaves) were in a pretty complete state of don’t care a d--n, modified by an affectionate and respectful deference to their Colonel.” - John Hay, 1861
" ' Ellsworth! Remember Ellsworth!' was the chorused battle-cry with us all, and at each shout horsemen would fall from their horses, victims upon our altar of vengeance." -Member of Co, B, 1st NY Fire Zouaves, NY Leader, July 23, 1861.