US Space & Rocket Center: Coronavirus, millions of dollars in Space Camp refunds cause layoffs, cuts

The US Space and Rocket Center announced on Monday that about 100 full time employees were permanently laid off due to Coronavirus concerns.

Posted: May 19, 2020 6:47 PM
Updated: May 19, 2020 6:49 PM

WAAY 31 learned more about the US Space & Rocket Center's financial struggles caused by coronavirus restrictions.

Tuesday, Pat Ammons, spokeswoman for the US Space & Rocket Center, said it refunded millions of dollars in Space Camp tuition for canceled camps.

On top of the more than 100 full-time employees it laid off, it does not need another 750 part-time people it hired for the summer.

The Center said 103 full-time employees were laid off here at the US Space & Rocket Center. That’s about a third of the entire staff and it’s already having an impact.

Christy Smith who lives in Huntsville said her 11-year-old son, Cash, went to Space Camp last summer for the first time.

"He burst out into almost tears and said it was the best experience of his life. The level of team building and education they're receiving at Space Camp. It's part of what makes Huntsville so spectacular and unique," she said.

Smith said a trip back to camp was scheduled for this coming weekend.

"These are some of the best and brightest employees in the world, so I trusted them last year so I will trust them again this year," Smith added.

Ammons said while the camp and museum are both closed because of the current coronavirus Safer At Home health order, they're working on how to safely re-open when the state allows.

"[We're] trying to find a way to keep the energy and excitement," Ammons said.

Smith said she was fortunate to be able to reschedule her son’s camp for July.

"I had no issue rescheduling which was kind of a concern because it usually is just maxed out and it is hard to get into the class," she explained.

Ammons said some kids won't be able to head to Space Camp this summer.

It’s planning for smaller camps if and when it reopens. She explained with more than a third of the staff gone, operations will look different when it reopens.

"There will be people wearing a lot of different hats and sometimes many hats as we try to get back on our feet and get going here with the important work we do here," Ammons said.

As for Smith's son, Cash Phelps, he said he's ready to head to camp.

"I want to work with robots and engineering. Last year I had a really good time. I was really looking forward to it," he said.

Ammons said she hopes this is the only round of layoffs.

She explained the museum portion is funded by admission. Space Camp brings in millions of dollars each year- some of that money now gone with the cancellations and refunded tuition.

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