“We have an amazing group of employees presented with the challenges of the current environment,” said Gregory P. Knoop, KidZania USA chief development officer. “Our actions have led to some people making the incorrect speculation that we are going out of business and closing forever. Our vision is to reopen, and that's what we're working on doing.”
Knoop said KidZania USA appointed Gevork Sarkisyan as its new chief executive officer on June 18. Sarkisyan is a partner in the company that operates KidZania franchises in the U.S., according to his LinkedIn page.
KidZania locations feature a scaled city that allows children to role-play different careers. At KidZania Dallas, children up to 14 years old can pretend to pilot airplanes, design robots and take on more than 100 other occupations. The Frisco location includes more than 50 businesses, including well-known brands such as Planet Fitness, Spotify and Pie Five Pizza.
The company started in 1999 in Mexico City and has 29 locations across the globe. KidZania opened its corporate office for all U.S. locations in Frisco in August 2019.
In November 2019, KidZania Dallas at Stonebriar Centre held a grand opening for its 85,000-square-foot facility, which is the company’s first U.S. location.
The Frisco facility closed on March 15 amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Knoop said the company’s strategy for moving forward does not include filing for bankruptcy. He said the decision to terminate employees who had been on furlough was a “very difficult” one to make.
“Nothing bad happened—it's not as if somebody did something wrong and we fired people just to fire people,” Knoop said. “We have a very, very different situation than Neiman Marcus or JCPenney, just to name two” companies that filed for bankruptcy.
He said the company’s management staff is working on a plan for the business’ next steps, and he hopes to be able to share that soon.
In addition to the location in Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, KidZania USA was in the very early stages of construction on a Chicago location and had plans for a New York location.
“At this point in time, we optimistically believe that we can still open in both Chicago and New York, but no decisions have been made,” Knoop said. “Our focus right now is [on] what we need to do to relaunch in Frisco and then resume operations in North America.”
Elizabeth Uclés contributed to this story.