CHICAGO — Beginning in July, general admission to the Shedd Aquarium will cost more at the door, but will allow all visitors full access to explore the mysterious depths of the sea.
Wednesday, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved the Shedd's request to eliminate tiered admission prices at the aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, which previously offered a low ticket price for access to its main exhibits but required visitors to buy add-on packages to see certain aquarium features.
Shedd's current approach has been "limiting" customers' experience" Shedd President and CEO Bridget Coughlin said at the board meeting Wednesday. The new changes "truly mak[e] it open access" for all visitors, she said.
Under the old, tiered price structure, city residents paid $5 for general admission, $27.95 for a "Shedd Pass" for adults and $36.95 for an "All-Access" pass. Non-city residents paid $8 for general admission, $30.95 for a "Shedd Pass," and $39.95 for an "All-Access" pass.
The general admission passes allowed access to the aquarium's "main-floor habitats," according to the aquarium's website. The Shedd Pass granted access to special exhibits like "Caribbean Reef" and the "Polar Play Zone," and All-Access passes include the Shedd's "Amphibians" exhibit, its 4D theater experience and the opportunity to touch a stingray.
Under the new flat rate price structure, city residents 12 or older pay $19.95 and children three to 11 years old who live in the city would pay $14.95. Adults who reside outside the city pay $39.95; non-resident children's admission is now $29.95.
The new fees do not include a $4.95 charge for the Shedd's 4D theater experience.
The new fees would take effect July 1.
The Shedd says the change will make buying tickets easier, eliminate cumbersome internal ticket checkpoints, and allow the aquarium to open up all its exhibits during its 52 free days a year for Illinois residents.
The Shedd drew nearly 2 million people last year, with 800,000 visiting for free or with a discount, officials said.
"This is not just a straight change. This is a huge step forward, towards more individuals getting full access, Coughlin said.
The price change is still less than national competition, Coughlin said. For example, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California general admission is $49.95. The Shedd has not changed its admission fees since 2000.