Ideas to boost the i360 included creating a Star Trek style attraction in a debate that included reference to Fawlty Towers.
Sussex Homeless support campaigner Jim Deans suggested approaching television production company Viacom to create a Star Trek themed attraction complete with Klingons.
He was speaking at public question time at Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee as it discussed deferring the attraction’s June loan payment.
Mr Deans cited a Birmingham convention, drawing thousands, where people pay up to £1,200 to walk around dressed as a commander or Klingon.
Council leader Nancy Platts thanked Mr Deans for one of the most interesting questions that she had ever received but confessed to not being a Trekkie.
Nick Hibberd, executive director for economy, environment and culture, confessed to not being a trekkie either but offered to put the idea to the i360 general manager, as themed events were proved to be a success.
A year after the Brighton seafront attraction asked for support as it could not pay off the millions it owes to the council, a further £1.342 million of loan payment was deferred,
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee agreed to defer £1.342 million of the proposed £1.492 million as the attraction makes less money in the first half of the year.
In 2018 the i360 came to an agreement with the council for more breathing space to pay back its £36.2 million loan by improving its marketing and management.
Mr Hibberd told the committee that the marketing budget had increased and there were increased skills on the i360 board.
He said that there was increased business in five of the first six months of this year, which was up 7.1 per cent on last year.
And this year there have been 10 days when the attraction had received more than 2,000 visitors.
So far July had seen a 26 per cent increase on visitors compared with last year, and week three, just three days, was 38 per cent better.
Mr Hibberd said:
“This is moving in the right direction.
“June is always more than challenging as the summer season is not in full swing.”
Green councillor Sue Shanks asked the committee to ensure that any future deferral requests made after December should require the i360 to pay the Public Works Loan Board repayments taken out by the council.
Councillor Shanks said that she remembered the original presentation as a way to regenerate the area around the West Pier.
“It has regenerated the area – but reading this is disturbing.
“We are expecting they will be able to play the Public Works Loan Board (because) as long as they are paying that it is not costing the city any money.”
Fellow Green councillor Martin Osborne said:
“It has brought investment in the local area around the i360 and has been a benefit in terms of tourism.
“We should be more patient.”
Conservative group leader Steve Bell said that the i360 should not be costing the residents of the city money.
He wanted the directors to come and answer councillors questions in public so people could understand what was happening with their money.
Councillor Bell said:
“They are able to function as a business because of the money loaned to them on support from residents.
“Our residents should hear from them.”
Conservative councillor Tony Janio questioned why the committee, made of the council’s various political leaders, had not received details what would happen if the i360 did not recover.
He reminded members how the council had said that it would take on the i360 if loan payments could not be met.
Labour councillor Daniel Yates described the i360 as a “novel” attraction, entering into the unknown as it was not clear how many people would want to see the city or seabed from above.
In a tit-for-tat with Councillor Janio over the marketing and funding of the attraction, Councillor Yates quoted Fawlty Towers.
“We have a responsibility to the economics of Brighton and Hove, not world tourism.
“If we were asked to borrow £38 million for somewhere in the world, where would we know 100,000 a year would be attracted to? A 360 degree panorama of what? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon?”
Councillors agreed to defer up to £1.342 million from the current loan payment, not to carry out default action and ensure future payments would cover the interest payments to the Public Works Loan Board.
(By Sarah Booker-Lewis – Local Democracy Reporter)