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Coronavirus cancels giant Army symposium in AL

Von Braun Center Propst Arena (AL.com file/TNS)

The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) has canceled its Global Force Symposium scheduled for Huntsville next week because of coronavirus concerns. The annual meeting held at the Von Braun Center downtown brought nearly 6,800 attendees to the Rocket City in 2019.

Organizers cited concerns from exhibitors about the coronavirus COVID-19. “We wanted to do the right thing” and “we wanted to have a full meeting,” AUSA Director of Media Operations Rick Maze told WHNT Channel 19.

The annual meeting is one of Huntsville’s largest with an estimated economic impact of $3.6 million, according to Kristen Pepper, marketing director for the Huntsville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s significant,” Pepper said today.

The event reflects the large role and influence of the many Army programs and commands based at Redstone Arsenal. It features displays of new technology and equipment available to support warfighters and also briefings by top Army commanders.

“The City of Huntsville has developed a great partnership with AUSA over the past several years,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said today. “While we share in the disappointment of the community, we respect their decision to make the health of AUSA members, participants and our citizens a top priority. We will continue to work with them and look forward to seeing AUSA in Huntsville in the coming years.”

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“We understand AUSA’s desire to prioritize the health and safety of their delegates, and look forward to welcoming them in 2021,” Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Judy Ryals said. “Going forward, the CVB will continue to work with our hospitality partners and public health officials to ensure that the health and safety of our visitors remains a top priority. Supporting our local hospitality industry is also of utmost importance – as travel is impacted, we encourage our residents to explore their own backyard and be patrons to our Huntsville/Madison County restaurants, attractions, hotels, and others.”

Jamie Koshofer, vice president of conventions for the CVB, said, “AUSA has long been a close partner of the CVB, and we will continue to provide support for them in all ways that we can. 2021 is right around the corner, and we look forward to bringing that business back to the Rocket City.”

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