Good things sprouting from admission fee at Rotary Gardens
An entrance fee at Janesville's Rotary Gardens is raising money for the attraction. The fee has so far raised nearly 70 percent of what was budgeted for this year. Kyle Geissler reports. You can read more in Sunday's Janesville Gazette.
Here’s the number of people who have paid to be admitted to Rotary Gardens since the gardens started charging admission April 15:
April: 290 (April 15-30).
May: 3,985 (includes 1,255 prom goers, who paid $2 each to have their pictures taken).
JANESVILLE Charging admission at Rotary Gardens so far has raised nearly 70 percent of the $75,000 expected for the year.
The gardens for the first time began charging admission April 15. Through Aug. 31, the admission fee raised $51,561, said David Jennings, executive director.
“Right now, there is no deficit, and we’re on track with the budget,” Jennings said. “We’re pleasantly surprised with the numbers,’’ he said.
And, the season isn’t over.
“September and October could be pretty good months,’’ he said.
The 2009 budget for Rotary Gardens totals $766,586. The remainder of the revenue comes from contributions from supporters, foundations and grants, events such as the dinner dance and holiday light show plus facility rental for weddings and business meetings.
The gardens does not get any city, state or federal funding.
Jennings said he believes the fee has not hurt the number of visitors to the gardens, although there are no solid numbers from prior years for comparison. Previously, annual attendance estimates were made based on the number of tours, event participation, periodic headcounts and the visitor log, he said.
“More people—local and from out-of-town—tell me it’s very worthwhile when they see what the gardens look like,’’ Jennings said.
The gardens’ board and staff are confident that charging the fee is the right thing to do, he said.
“To keep this garden going at this level, we need to look at other income sources and admission. There are a lot of other gardens around the country charging admissions, and we thought that might help boost our Friends’ membership, and we’ve seen that happen,’’ Jennings said.
People who join Friends of Rotary Gardens get free admission and other discounts.
Friends has 697 members at six membership levels from individual, which costs $35 to $49 a year, all the way to family benefactor plus guests, which carries a price tag of $2,500 or more, according to a Friends brochure.
Friends of Rotary Gardens revenue in 2009 is up 23 percent, Jennings said.
“The value is there in free admission plus the discounts in the gift shop and at the plant sales,’’ Jennings said.
Admission fees—$5 for adults, $3 for kids 6 to 12 and $15 for a family—won’t be raised for 2010.
“We’ve got one year under our belt. People are becoming accustomed to it, and with the economy the way it is, it wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. I think it’s a fair price for such a beautiful garden,’’ Jennings said.
Rose Miller, Janesville, agreed. She and her husband, Urban, are Friends members and garden volunteers.
“We believe in this project. It is a wonderful addition to the city and we need to carry on Dr. (Bob) Yahr’s dream,” Rose said. “It’s really a gift to the community.’’