SeaWorld San Antonio has laid off 242 employees previously furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic and sinking ticket sales.  

Furloughed since March when virus-related lockdowns derailed tourism and forced the park to close, the SeaWorld San Antonio employees were notified Sept. 4 that they have been permanently laid off. 

“While we had hoped we would be able to return all Ambassadors to work, the continued uncertainty, capacity limitations, and challenging business environment require us to focus on meeting current priorities, needs and demand,” SeaWorld’s chief human resources officer wrote in a form letter sent to employees – referred to as “ambassadors” by the company.

The letter states that the employee has been terminated but remains eligible to apply for openings and includes additional information about transitioning benefits and complimentary park tickets. 

Like most tourist attractions, SeaWorld closed March 16 in keeping with local stay-home orders. It then reopened with limited hours and capacity on June 19. 

The parent company recently announced that starting next year the San Antonio park would remain open year-round like its parks in Florida and San Diego.

But last Friday, SeaWorld Entertainment filed documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission detailing its plan to lay off its furloughed employees nationwide. 

“Due to the sudden and unforeseeable economic impacts of the pandemic on the Company’s business operations, that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the temporary furlough, the Company has determined that it will transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff,” stated the documents. 

The company also stated it expects to spend between $2.5 million and $3 million in the third quarter on employee severance costs due to the layoffs. 

SeaWorld San Antonio’s park president notified the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), City Manager Erik Walsh, and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff of the layoffs in a filing dated Sept. 4. 

“The effects upon the amusement and theme park industry have been significant and sustained,” Byron Surrett wrote. “While the Texas parks reopened at a reduced operating schedule and guest capacity in June, park attendance has been impacted by self-imposed limitations and consumer concerns regarding COVID-19 and other factors.”

The TWC filing obtained by the San Antonio Report did not disclose the job titles of employees who were laid off or their salary level.

As of Aug. 29, 3.4 million Texans have filed for unemployment relief since
mid-March.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the business beat reporter at the San Antonio Report.