Beginning in January, 2014, the Washington National Cathedral will start charging visitors an admission fee. Not everyone, however, is happy about it.
Struggling to pay for the cost of upkeep, the church needs to generate more revenue, the cathedral’s dean, Rev. Gary Hall, told the Associated Press. He said the decision to charge admission was made reluctantly, but noted that cathedrals in Europe charge admission fees to cover costs of upkeep.
“All we are charging for is tourism essentially,” Rev. Hall said. “We’re not charging for the essential services of the cathedral.”
Cathedral officials said Monday they would be charging $10 admission for adults and $6 for children, seniors, and members of the armed forces. Admission will be free on Sundays and on weekdays for worshippers. The church also will offer a $25 family discounted fee, which includes a one-year National Cathedral Association membership.
In addition to the regular costs of upkeep, the church needs to generate revenue to pay for the whopping $26 million repair bill for fixing damage from the August 2011 earthquake. So far, Hall said, the cathedral has collected only about $7 million.
Rev. Hall also told the AP that a hiring freeze, a salary freeze for the highest paid employees, and a change in vendors have cut $1.7 million from the cathedral’s budget. No staff members were laid off, he said.
“We need to grow in certain areas that we don’t have the resources to do so right now,” Hall said. “If we just keep cutting and cutting and cutting … we’ll just be a kind of shrinking institution.”
Mr. Sokol recognizes that some people might have a negative reaction to the decision to charge admission, but said the move was necessary to prevent a budget crisis.
“The change in entry policy has the potential to generate bad press,” he said, adding the church will need “a communication strategy to mitigate any voiced opposition.”
After the cathedral begins collecting admission fees in January, staff will conduct monthly reviews through June, when they will decide whether or not to continue the practice.
The historic Washington National Cathedral, a cathedral of the Episcopal Church, was built under a charter passed by the U.S. Congress in 1893. Construction began in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the laying of the foundation stone. It’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world.