Attention cheapskates: Last day to see the Volunteer Park Conservatory for free

Stopping to smell the roses and browsing the bromeliads at the Volunteer Park Conservatory will cost you starting Friday. But it’s for a good cause.

CHS has been telling you about Seattle Parks’ plan to move the conservatory toward a more self-sufficient future. On Friday, another part of that future begins.

According to the city, the $4 admission will help keep the 100-year-old conservatory open and operating. Good news — teens are only $2 and kids under 12 are free:


Following the results of a 2012 study Seattle Parks and Recreation conducted to identify a more financially stable model for operating the Conservatory, the City adopted the $4 adult entry fee.

Other fees are:

  • $2 for youth ages 13-17
  • No fee for children 12 and younger
  • $25 for K-12 school groups (with advance reservations)

Revenues from the entry fee, estimated to be $104,000, will help keep the facility open and operating, preserve the Conservatory’s heritage and maintain the horticultural collection.

Parks says the conservatory costs around $450,000 per year to operate and attracts more than 90,000 visitors annually.

Beyond an operation budget, the facility also needs a major overhaul, volunteers say. The Friends of the Conservatory group has mounted a capital campaign to help raise $3.5 million needed to complete restoration of the 1912 facility.

According to the city, community members have been helping fund day-to-day operations all along:

To date, individual donors have contributed just over half of the $750,000 still needed for the restoration fund. Generous donations to the Friends of the Conservatory and ongoing volunteer labor will help keep the entry fee affordable for all visitors. As of early November, more than 100,000 people had visited the Conservatory this year, about two-thirds of them from outside Seattle.

Starting Friday, visitors can pay using  a machine at the Conservatory’s entry that accepts Visa, MasterCard, $1 bills and coins, but beware, the machine doesn’t provide change and will take extra funds as a donation.

The Conservatory is open to the public 10 AM to 4 PM, Tuesdays through Sundays.

4 thoughts on “Attention cheapskates: Last day to see the Volunteer Park Conservatory for free

  1. I’m perfectly fine, mostly, with paying – that’s an old building made of material that isn’t meant to last, filled with plants that need a lot of time and attention, all of which has to be paid for somehow. I’ll just try to remember to keep the dollars in my pocket during my walks.

  2. I too wouldn’t mind supporting the conservatory with a membership. I fairly often enjoy this delightful place. But I’m pretty angry about the $4 fee. The city spent $50,000 (!) on a pretty, but shallow study. For example, the study assumed the number of attendees would be close to the same whether the fee was $3 or $4. Maybe it’s price inelastic, but there’s no evidence for this. The study estimated that attendance would fall less than 50% even in its most pessimistic scenarios — but gave no basis for this estimate. The study ignored the possibility of selling annual passes — though most venues like museums and gardens sell these.
    Okay, even if it wasn’t a very deep study, it was a study. It estimated the cost of installing ticket machines at about $25,000. I assume at least a 20% cost overrun, given how government contracts work. So, the first 20,000 admissions by my count will be needed to pay for the study. BTW, the conservatory took in $36,000 in donations anyway in 2011 — meaning, that even if the admission fee generated $150,000 the first year as projected in the “moderate scenario” by the study, increase in revenue would be less than $40,000. In the conservative scenario under the study, there would be no -zero – net revenue gain for the city in the first year. So, this is a fee that’s for the long term future, when likely the financial crunch will have eased. But please don’t expect the city to remove the fee when times get better — there’s this rather large investment in equipment and studies that will need to be paid off.
    Another deeply thought out decision by our city council, which remains the second highest paid city council among American cities according to the Seattle Times and more recent data from the Pew Trust — higher than New York, Chicago or San Francisco, for example. Aren’t we fortunate to have such well-paid people with well paid consultants to make policy?

  3. there already is a way to join the Friends of the Conservatory and support it with membership fees.

    Look up volunteerparkconservatory.org and check out what’s there.