Joco 913

Johnson County park board sets admission fees for relocated museum

The Johnson County Museum will be moving from its home in Shawnee, above, to the former King Louie building on Metcalf Avenue.
The Johnson County Museum will be moving from its home in Shawnee, above, to the former King Louie building on Metcalf Avenue.

When the Johnson County Museum reopens at its new location next May, visitors will have larger exhibits to enjoy.

They also, for the first time, will have to pay to get in.

The Johnson County Park & Recreation District Board on Wednesday approved new admission fees for the museum in Overland Park.

Admission for adults 18 years and up will cost $5, while seniors aged 60 and up will pay $4 and children aged 1 to 17 can get in for $3. Admission will remain free for children younger than 12 months. As a pricing option, families would pay a flat fee of $20.

The museum also plans waive all admission fees four days a year and sell annual memberships of $30 for individuals and $50 for families.

The new fees were included as part of the board’s annual tweaking of its fees for park use and recreation programs across the district.

Board member Steve Baru attempted to cut the fees in half, noting that the museum hadn’t required them before. Baru said he worried that charging the recommended amounts would actually hurt attendance.

“It’s gone from free to not-so-free,” Baru said.

His recommendation failed to get enough votes, however, as other board members said it was too early to tell if attendance would be affected.

Jill Geller, the district’s executive director, added that its agreement with the Johnson County Commission to move the museum to the Arts and Heritage Center in the old King Louie Building at 8788 Metcalf Ave. envisioned charging a fee to offset additional expenses of the larger facility and prevent the county from having to pay additional subsidies.

Board member Nancy Wallerstein said she didn’t foresee a problem with visitor numbers.

“The first year out, everyone’s going to want to lay their eyes on the new facility, the new museum, the new Arts and Heritage Center, and I will bet that attendance will just soar,” Wallerstein said. “This is really a nominal amount. Most museums and heritage centers have a fee to get in.”

Besides the museum, the board also set prices for acting troupes and other groups wanting to rent the Art and Heritage Center’s 350-seat “black box” theater, a facility that The Theatre in the Park will also use for year-round performances.

Staff originally recommended charging nonprofit groups $600 a day or $3,500 a week to rent the theater while charging for-profit groups $1,200 a day and $7,000 a week.

While theater staff said they developed those prices by looking at the rental rates for similar theater spaces around the area, some board members said they worried those prices were too high and would send potential rental customers elsewhere.

Board member Steve Klika, who also is on the County Commission, successfully added a stipulation that allows staff to reduce the theater’s rental prices by up to 50 percent to meet seasonal demand or other market factors. He said the price could be set in the future when the true demand for the space is known.

“I’d rather have the building used than not used,” Klika said.

The package of amended fees ultimately passed 5-3.

David Twiddy: