Friday, July 19, 2024

So the $1 admission to this museum is now permanent

NEWPORT NEWS — The Mariners’ Museum and Park announced Thursday it is going to $1 admission on a permanent basis beginning Nov. 17.

However, the decision can be traced to 2016, when it updated its mission statement, which now reads: “The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waters, because through the waters – through our shared maritime heritage – we are connected to one another.”

Howard Hoege, president and CEO of the museum, said one way to do that is with the reduced admission.

He estimates a large part of the community can’t afford the current price, which ranges from $8.95-$13.95. With this decision, Hoege said, the museum will be available to a wide audience.

And the numbers support him.

The museum first went to $1 admission on a trial basis for August 2016. It was expanded to June-August in 2017, and this year, it ran from late May until Labor Day.

Hoege said the average number of visitors for August is about 5,500. In August 2016, they had more than 39,000 visitors.

“We did not anticipate that at all, nothing even close to that,” Hoege said. “We tripled the number of kids in our galleries, and the diversity in our galleries was through the roof. So from a mission perspective, it accomplished exactly what we hoped.”

That success continued the following year.

 “We finished that summer of 2017 with a dramatic increase in our visitation over summers when we had not done dollar admissions,” he said, adding the numbers were down “slightly” this summer from a year ago.

“But we’re still up 233 percent over, in terms of just raw visitation numbers, the summer of 2015,” he said.

It also was a hit financially because of added sponsorships from a number of local businesses.

“We couldn’t ignore the fact that not only were the numbers so big, we actually exceeded our earned revenue goals that month,” Hoege said of August 2016. “We didn’t take a financial hit for doing it.”

 They are finalizing the financial numbers for this summer, but Hoege expects it to be similar to last summer.

 “The revenue tied to our visitation (gate, movie tickets, gift shop and corporate sponsors) was up 18 percent over the last summer when we had no dollar admissions,” he said.

With increases in revenue and visitors, Hoege and his colleagues are confident this is sustainable in the long run.

“Dollar admissions is best understood as an overall effort to create access to the museum,” he said. “From a mission perspective, going to $1 admissions makes a lot of sense. It’s the right thing to do.”

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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