The Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission’s (ASSEC) Executive and Business Committees met on December 13, 2018, to hear a monthly overview of activities at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center including Space Camp and Aviation Challenge programs.
While CEO Deborah Barnhart listened in by phone, Louie Ramirez and Brenda Carr led the presentation starting with a brief overview of the recent ThinkerCon event held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The event, held in November, included 50+ of the best educational creators from YouTube led by Huntsville’s own Destin Sandlin who is well known for his YouTube channel SmarterEveryDay with just over 6 million subscribers. The night event appears to have been successful with all 1000 tickets sold out. The creators also used the event to discuss how to improve their skills of presenting educational content around the world. One committee member had a question about who profited from the event and was informed that the event organizer was the entity who would have collected any profit from the event.
Committee members were also informed on several other events and recent happenings including media coverage of the history of the Bush Room, which serves as the administrative entrance for the center, named after former President George H. W. Bush who famously visited the center when he was serving as Vice President. There was also a brief discussion of the success of the NASA Hackathon event.
A brief schedule of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 was provided. This event will coincide with the popular Space Camp and Aviation Challenge alumni weekend and Space Camp Hall of Fame induction dinner.
Key Events to celebrate Apollo 11 50th Anniversary
July 13, 2019: Car Show and Space Camp Hall of Fame Induction Dinner
July 16, 2019: Guinness World Record Rocket Launch attempt, Apollo Homecoming Dinner
July 19, 2019: Downtown Parade “Don’t hang up your dancing slippers”
July 20, 2019: Summer Fest Concert
The center will also be opening a new featured Apollo exhibit in February. The end date for the new exhibit wasn’t specifically mentioned but it sounded like it would still be there during the 50th-anniversary events. The exhibit will then go on the road to several other museums. During the meeting, the committees approved exhibit lease contract language for the Minnesota Science Center and approved the contract for the Intrepid Museum. Other locations mentioned for the exhibit included Albuquerque and Houston with no specific museums noted.
The committee also was informed about the lease of several items for a traveling exhibit not sponsored by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Items mentioned were a multi-axis trainer and a cockpit, a more comprehensive list of items was not provided. Committee members had some questions about liability and support of the items that were addressed by staff at the meeting. The total amount announced for the lease agreement was $25,000. Committee members were also briefed on the sale of several other items that were once used at the museum and featured in a traveling exhibit. This included the MIR space station walkthrough module that was sold for $50,000, freeing up precious storage space.
No finance or camp registration handouts were provided but the following information was gathered from the charts presented. The one and only public discount provided for camp programs (i.e. Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, etc) was offered during a Black Friday online event. $846,788 was collected in weeklong camp revenue (up 6% over last year) and $115,299 was collected for Family/Adult Camps (up 96% over last year). Revenue continued to grow despite a reduction in the discount on individual camps. Staff also offered a top ten list of states by Black Friday sales.
Top Ten States by Black Friday Sales
Alabama – 132
Georgia – 110
California – 83
Virginia – 62
Texas – 58
Florida – 57
Illinois – 56
North Carolina – 56
Tennessee – 48
Indiana – 35
Museum attendance continued to show slight gains versus last fiscal year with 1.4% rise in attendance and a 4.2% gain in total revenue. Movie revenue dropped 5.6% (note that the IMAX theater closed in November to make way for a new planetarium) and bus tour revenue dropped 15.3%. Daily group revenue rose 1.7%.
Compared to recent years, the center is on strong footing in finances. The center is focused on cutting expenses and it shows with several key expense areas at or under budget for the year. Revenues for the museum, merchandising, special events and food sales remain very strong in helping support the slow-moving fall/winter camp programs whose revenues will peak during the spring/summer months.
Center Cash Sheet November 2018
Line of Credit: $0.00
Accounts Payable: -$871,607.00 Short-term Cash Position $2,149,401.00
Long Term Debt $9,350,329.00 (paid down $551,112.11 since Nov 2017)
Foundation Cash $656,893.00
Deferred Camp Revenue $2,918,138
It was announced that Roosevelt Lewis’ tenure on a companion commission, Alabama Space Science Exhibit Finance Authority, had come to an end and that a new replacement would be selected by ASSEC chair and sent to CEO Deborah Barnhart for recommendation to Governor Kay Ivey. In other housekeeping efforts, the committees set their meeting schedule to remain the third Wednesday each month.
Toward the end of the meeting, both committees unanimously voted to go into executive session to discuss litigation that involves ASSEC. The allotted time given for the executive session was 30 minutes but was extended twice to a total of 50 minutes for the entire executive session. Once the executive session ended, the regular meeting was called back to order. A motion was passed to refer two legal issues to two different law firms.
Wes is a two time Space Camp graduate and space enthusiast with a love of North Alabama. When he isn't busy being a dad he enjoys travel, volunteering and working his life away. All comments are my own.