The Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum are seeking approval from the Chicago Park District for admission-fee increases, the latest in a slew of recent requests by city museums for higher entry fees.
Admission fees supplement an annual subsidy of $29.6 million from property tax revenue that gets divvied up among the 11 museums on Park District property.
Both the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum are asking the Park District Board to vote Wednesday on raising general admission fees effective on Feb. 1 to help offset increased costs in building maintenance and operations.
Under the MSI proposal, Chicagoans 12 and up would pay $16.95, an increase from $15. Chicago children ages 3 to 11 would pay $9.95, a nickel less than the $10 currently charged.
Adults who live outside the city would be charged $21.95, up from $18, and children living outside the city would be charged $12.95, up from $11.
Free entry for children under 3 would remain.
"This requested price increase -- the museum's first in five years -- will allow the Museum of Science and Industry to ensure sustainability of our facilities and programs so we can continue to proudly serve the Chicago community by remaining a place for all can celebrate and be inspired by science," spokeswoman Amy Patti said in an email.
Revenue generated by admission fees helps pay for operating expenses at museums. Other revenue sources include financial contributions, grants, investment income and special events.
Also on Wednesday, the Chicago History Museum will present a revised proposal to the Park District Board to raise fees after the board did not vote on its original request at a meeting in October.
Less than two years after a previous fee hike, the history museum wants to charge Chicago adults $17, up from $14, and other Illinois residents and tourists $19, up from $16. Illinois adults ages 19 to 22 and in-state seniors ages 65 and older would get a $2 discount.
But admission would be free to Illinois children up to 18 years old, similar to what the Museum of Contemporary Art put in place in 2017 for all teens and what the Art Institute did for Chicago teens courtesy of private gifts.
Currently at the history museum, children ages 13 to 18 are charged $12 if they live in the city and $14 if they don't. Children ages 12 and younger get in for free.
Admission would remain free for out-of-state visitors ages 12 and under. A $2 discount would be offered to those ages 13 to 22, so they would be charged $17.
If approved, the increase, its third since 2006, is expected to generate less than $100,000. "We will work hard to avoid having to reduce services, programs and hours," museum President Gary Johnson said in an email.
Russell Lewis, the museum's executive vice president and chief historian, told the board at the October meeting that the museum doesn't plan to make the same plea in the near future.
"We feel like the $19 is really a threshold. We would have to see some significant change in what the history museum offers to the public to come back and ask for an additional increase any time soon," Lewis said.
In total, more than 8.5 million people visited the 11 museums on Park District property, referred to as Museums in the Park, in 2016, the latest figures available. The 11 museums on Park District property are Adler Planetarium, Art Institute, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shedd Aquarium, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.
The National Museum of Mexican Art and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture have free admission. The Adler Planetarium, DuSable Museum of African American History and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum have not requested fee increases in at least four years.
Museums have free days for Illinois residents and discounted rates for Chicago residents. Additionally, they allow free admission to school groups but some charge extra for special exhibits.
Here's a look at other recent admission-fee proposals:
- In September 2017, the Field Museum got permission to increase its fees from $16 to $18 for Chicago adults and from $9 to $11 for Chicago children ages 3 to 11. Non-residents saw admission fees rise from $22 to $24 for adults and from $15 to $17 for children ages 3-11. The last increase was approved in 2015.
- In May 2017, the Shedd Aquarium was granted approval to change its tiered admission fees, which made it more costly for some visitors. For example, the basic $5 general admission fee, which previously only allowed access to the original galleries where a small portion of animals are, jumped to $19.95 for Chicago adults but now includes all exhibits. Prior to that request, the aquarium hadn't changed fees since 2000.
- In April 2017, the Museum of Contemporary Art got approval to raise its suggested admission prices for adults from $12 to $15 while it welcomed teens for free and expanded its night hours. It had not raised fees since 2009.
- In March 2016, the Chicago History Museum was granted approval to raise its admission tickets for Chicago residents from $12 to $14 for adults and from $10 to $12 for students ages 13 to 22. Prices for non-residents increased from $14 to $16 for adults and from $12 to $14 for students.
- In October 2015, the Field Museum got permission to increase its fees from $13 to $16 for Chicago adults and from $8 to $9 for Chicago children ages 3 to 11. Non-residents saw admission fees rise from $18 to $22 for adults and from $13 to $15 for children ages 3-11. The last approved increase was in 2010 for Chicago residents and 2013 for non-residents.
- In June 2015, the Art Institute raised its prices for adults from $18 to $20 for Chicago residents, from $20 to $22 for Illinois residents and $23 to $25 for out-of-state adults. It was more than two years since the last increase request.