Nobody likes to see prices rise. But it's really galling when prices grow and what you get in return shrinks,
Unfortunately, that's what's about to happen at Patriots Point. Ticket prices are set to go up April 1, and one of the maritime museum's three naval vessels, the Cold War submarine Clamagore, is set to go down - to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Florida. Permanently.
The Patriots Point Development Authority voted recently to hike the $18 cost of tickets for adults to $20. Children ages 6 to 11, who now pay $11, will pay $12.
Patriots Point will become one of the most expensive tourist attractions in the Lowcountry, just shy of the South Carolina Aquarium, which charges $25 for adults and $15 for children.
Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said the price increases, expected to generate an additional $300,000 to $400,000, are necessary. Annual upkeep of the three vessels is $1 million or more, and insurance and utility costs have increased by about 17 percent in the past year. (He didn't say how much those costs would drop without the Clamagore.)
Then there are the museum's plans to spend $5 million to update the attractions with digital features. And it needs to finish paying for an ongoing $250,000 paint job and a new $200,000 wastewater system.
Patriots Point is wise to address maintenance needs and to enhance its exhibits to draw more visitors. It was because the authority failed to take care of the Laffey that it almost sank.
The cost to repair the World War II destroyer ended up at $9.2 million - which the authority had to borrow from the state and still needs to repay.
But the authority's decision to scrap the Clamagore, the last remaining sub of its class, has not yet been adequately justified.
Advocates for the Clamagore are optimistic that they can come up with $5 million necessary to repair and reposition the sub at Patriots Point or elsewhere. But they need extra time. A group of retired business executives is helping the Clamagore Restoration and Maintenance Association map out a rescue plan.
And Rep. Joe Daning, R-Berkeley, wants the Legislature to require Patriots Point to keep the submarine for a year to accommodate the fundraising attempt to save it.
Further, veteran submariners have offered to pitch in on some of the maintenance. Certainly they know their way around the sub, and the price of their help is right.
But museum officials have declined the offer, citing potential liability. Some smart lawyers might be able to recommend a legal solution. Consulting them would be worth the authority's time and effort.
Visitors are awed by the size of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the museum's principal exhibit. They are touched by the story of the Laffey, called "the ship that would not die." And the Medal of Honor museum is inspiring and will be more so when a new facility is built.
But the authority should not underrate the appeal of the Clamagore. The Legislative Audit Council found it to be the second-most popular exhibit there - and urged its restoration. Seeing the cramped quarters where submariners spent months at a time on stealth missions astounds and impresses visitors.
The present administration cannot be blamed for many of the problems Patriots Point now must address. It is commendable that the authority has knuckled down to fix the problems they inherited - and to adopt a long-range plan.
But it is disappointing that Patriot Point is not willing to put the same kind of effort into saving the Clamagore.
Doing so would make it a lot easier for visitors to fork over the extra dollars for tickets.
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