Alcatraz set for a makeover and update to its audio tour

Alcatraz Island will be closed to visitors today and Tuesday while dozens of workers perform upgrades to the famous former federal penitentiary.

The work will include updating new interior and exterior cell house exhibits, performing maintenance on the docks and cleaning up the remnants of thousands of nesting birds, according to Rich Weideman, spokesman for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The birds — about 10,000 Canada Geese, Black Crown Night Herons, Western Gulls and Brandts Cormorants — have nested on the island for about three months, Weideman said.

Historical information presented to visitors is also being updated, officials said. Visitors’ audio tour experience will be improved to better simulate a prisoner’s experience at “the Rock,” which operated from 1934 to 1963. Ten minutes will be added to the MP3 tour, including new information about the segregation experienced by African-American prisoners and guards working in the maximum-security prison, Weideman said.

The cost of the boat trip, which includes the audio tour, is slated to go up by about $3 in coming months, Weideman said. Currently it costs $18.75 for adults to travel to the island by ferry and take the tour.

Salifu Abudulai, who stood at Pier 41 yesterday waiting for the Alcatraz ferry, said he moved to San Francisco less than two years ago and was already on his eighth trip to the prison that once housed Al Capone. Nearly every time a visitor comes to town, he ends up taking the ferry to the prison, which was shut down by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

“It’s synonymous with San Francisco,” Abudulai said of the island and tour.

The price hike likely won’t prevent Abudulai from going to Alcatraz given its wide appeal, he said.

Chris Price, an Irish citizen living in Germany who was also waiting for the boat, echoed that sentiment, saying that if visitors pay $1,400 for an airplane ticket to San Francisco, it’s unlikely that a small hike in price will deter anyone from seeing Alcatraz.

Terry MacRae, president of Alcatraz Cruises, said some pay much more than they have to in order to get to the famous island.

“People are willing to pay twice the ticket price” from scalpers, MacRae said.

mcarroll@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Gov. Newsom wants $4.2 billion to finish the Central Valley link for the bullet train, but legislators aren’t sold. (Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock; CA High Speed Rail Authority; Shae Hammond for CalMatters)
Bullet train budget battle: Should California spend more on urban transit, not high-speed rail?

By Marissa Garcia CalMatters High-speed rail was supposed to connect California’s urban… Continue reading

Cooks work in the kitchen at The Vault Garden. (Courtesy Hardy Wilson)
Help wanted: SF restaurants are struggling to staff up

Some small businesses have to ‘sweeten the pot’ when hiring workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda during a March 2021 press conference. (Credit Ed Reed/EdSource)
How California plans to deter costly special education disputes

Fund is meant to help parents and schools settle differences before heading to court

Hundreds of Britney Spears fans and supporters rallied in support of ending her 13-years-long conservatorship and the removal of her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator, at the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP Images)
The Britney effect: How California is grappling with conservatorship

By Jocelyn Wiener CalMatters However improbable, this has become the summer we… Continue reading

District Attorney Chesa Boudin is launching an investigation into whether Chinatown merchants have been targeted as victims of possibly illegitimate lawsuits. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)
DA launches investigation of potential fraud targeting Chinatown merchants

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it is launching an… Continue reading

Most Read