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Tennessee Aquarium lays off 22 full-time employees amid pandemic

The Tennessee Aquarium announced layoffs as it continues to see an impact from the pandemic, according to a release from the company Thursday.
(WVLT)
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 6:46 PM EDT
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Aquarium announced layoffs and salary reductions as it continues to see an impact from the pandemic, according to a release from the company Thursday.

The aquarium’s closure began March 13 and lasted 96 days. “During the critically important time from spring break until mid-June, the weekly operational costs of $400,000 continued without admissions revenue.”

The Aquarium took quick action to stretch financial resources, instituting the following measures in March and April:

  • Salaries of all directors, senior leaders, and CEO were reduced
  • 112 part-time employees were permanently laid off
  • A hiring/wage freeze was instituted
  • Non-essential spending was curtailed
  • Existing debt structure was refinanced
  • Applied for, and received, a Payroll Protection Plan Loan

The aquarium said that its attendance is 50 percent lower than in 2019 with attendance at IMAX down 70 percent.

“These losses are projected to leave the iconic Chattanooga attraction with a staggering deficit of more than $5 million by the end of 2020. Without additional operational changes, one devasting year could become several.”

According to the release, CEO Keith Sanford sent a message to staff and volunteers announcing that 22 full-time positions were being eliminated.

The aquarium currently has 136 full-time employees and 23 part-time employees.

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