“But, because of good planning in the past, we had some cash reserves that we utilized,” he said, adding that the center continued paying all of its employees.
“We did not want to lose this team,” he said.
When the aquarium and zoo were allowed to reopen but the museum was not, the center fashioned a new entrance to provide one-way access through the aquarium. All interactive hands-on activities were turned off, “so it was basically just a walk-through,” he said.
Still, that limited reopening helped make up for some lost revenue. By September, attendance figures had reached 85% of the previous year’s numbers, though that percentage dropped some in October and November, Dobrogosz said.
And while the holiday launch of Winter Wonderlights, an indoor-outdoor light display, did not make money, it did break even. That’s considerable, when taking into account it paid back the $1.6 million investment made prior to the pandemic.
“The beauty of it is that now we own 70% of those lights,” Dobrogosz said. “For this year’s Winter Wonderlights, we’ll have to purchase or rent less lights, because we already have a lot.”
The science center had sought about $800,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds distributed by Guilford County. But commissioners balked at the amount, citing the number of other nonprofits needing assistance, and limited requests to $50,000 for each group.