Monday, April 18, 2011

Gettysburg Visitors Center Price Debate

With the recent celebratory mood over the defeat of casinos near Gettysburg National Military Park you would think things were all good. Little could be further from the truth. The Gettysburg Foundation has recently announced plans to request a $2 increase in adult admission, and also to reclassify the adult age bracket, to the three attractions at the Visitor's Center: the museum, the restored cyclorama painting, and the film A New Birth of Freedom. This increase will bring the adult admission to $12.50. The driving reason behind this proposed increase? Turns out the Foundation says it is operating at a loss. Read more on that story here.

As a recent visitor to Gettysburg I'd like to put my two cents in. The Visitor's Center is a great building. It's obvious that it was built to impress. That said let's get to the meat of it all. We didn't go to the food service area so I can't comment on that. The bookstore is a site to behold. It is a treasure trove of all things Gettysburg. The book selection is very nice but you are going to pay full retail. For a town like Gettysburg I'd probably rather give my hard earned dollars to Bernadette at Battlefields and Beyond or one of the other local bookstores. I'm not saying the employees at the VC aren't passionate about their jobs but to own an independant bookstore says a lot about the person and for me if I'm going to pay the same price I'd rather it go to a local than to a faceless company. Just me maybe. The movie didn't do too much for me one way or the other. I'm glad we saw it but it's not going to draw me back. The museum left me somewhat underwhelmed to be honest. Where are the artifacts? The guns? The cool stuff? Sure there was some of it out there but there's only so much reading of big displays I can do and I was tired after leaving. What could draw me back is the very cool Cyclorama of Pickett's Charge. Unfortunately you are herded like cattle in and out and you have a very short window of time to see the painting. Enough time to take it in? NO. Would I go back to the VC? Maybe. Of course by the time we get back to Gettysburg the cost will probably be $15 or more. If you do go be sure to get out your AAA card for the discount.

I've read very little that isn't down right hostile to the Foundation. I get that there are some issues still around from the original plans. Apparently the stated goal was for the museum to be free. There are issues about the lack of artifacts on display. These are issues that GNMP or the NPS needs to address with the Foundation. The problem as I see it is financing. I run a large retail store for a very large private company. I understand the costs of doing business. For almost all businesses, and yes the Foundation is a business no matter how it is set up, margins have been squeezed as of late. Unfortunately as costs to business rise so do prices to end users. The Foundation has chosen to go the Disney and Universal Studios route of continuing to increase prices rather than try to attract more visitors possibly with a lower price. For these two it hasn't seemed to hurt business. Of course ask the average family which they would rather go to the Magic Kingdom or a Civil War Battlefield and Museum and I'm sure you can guess the answer. Will this ticket price increase end up causing more visitors to stay away from the VC and roam the battlefield on their own or perhaps stay away all together? Time will tell. Personally I'm not sure the $2 will keep folks away. $12.50 will still seem like a fairly low price to many, for a one time visit that is. It's when prices continue to creep up and get near that $20 figure that people may start reconsidering. Of course if gas prices continue to rise then all bets are off.

In my opinion for the average visitor the best money they can spend is on a Licensed Battlefield Guide. For about the same price as admission for four you get a dedicated, knowledgeable professional how can teach you about the battle and the battlefield. Of course you are probably going to meet your guide at the VC and get sucked into the Refreshment Saloon and maybe into the museum after all. Well, I tried to give good advice.

Anyway...Let's hear what you think. Have you been to the VC? Would you go back? What did you like or dislike? And let's try to keep it on the VC itself and not about the politics of the Foundation. I think we all agree there enough issues there and they have been hashed over enough recently.

1 comment:

  1. Only been to G-burg once (in 1988) and skipped the visitor's center. Good thing they don't charge admission to the battlefield itself. Yet.

    OT, you may be interested to know that your comparison of my Knoxville 1863 to Killer Angels has a second---from Red Adept Reviews, one of the gold standards of Indie book reviewers.

    Wrote reviewer Jim Chambers: “I’ve long considered Michael and Jeff Shaara’s Civil War trilogy to be one of the benchmarks for Civil War historical fiction. Knoxville 1863 came very close to that mark.”