ANGRY seafront bosses have blasted the organisers of the America’s Cup World Series and say businesses have been ‘severely affected’ by a string of mistakes and miscommunication.
Blue Reef Aquarium says it was one of the ‘worst-affected’ attractions and have seen a ‘dramatic drop’ in trade.
Officials say vehicle access to the seafront and parking was severely limited and stewards for the race had been ‘wrongly informing’ would-be visitors that they cannot visit the aquarium without having tickets for the America’s Cup event itself.
And it’s been said the situation was made even worse when race organisers wrongly tweeted that ticket holders for the America’s Cup races, which were cancelled on Sunday due to the bad weather, could gain entry to the aquarium.
Lindsay Holloway, of Blue Reef Aquarium, said: ‘This weekend is an absolutely crucial time for us and other visitor attractions, and a combination of miscommunication and frankly poor management has resulted in many visitors either not being able to gain access to the aquarium at all, or being told they could not even visit us unless they had tickets for the racing.
‘This was supposed to be an opportunity to really put Southsea on the map and to attract new visitors to the area.
We have seen a considerable drop in visitor numbers over a key trading weekend as a direct result of the actions and miscommunication of the organisers.Lindsay Holloway, of Blue Reef Aquarium
‘It was portrayed to us all as a chance to work with the organisers to grow our businesses.
‘Instead we have seen a considerable drop in visitor numbers over a key trading weekend as a direct result of the actions and miscommunication of the organisers.
‘We will all be here supporting the local economy and attracting people to the area once the race has moved on and it seems a real shame the needs of Southsea businesses have not been better protected.’
Meanwhile, Team Origin has issued a statement insisting it did not give cup ticket holders the impression they could go to the aquarium for free.
It says: ‘The America’s Cup World Series site included the venues of the main Southsea Common area and an area locally known as Bandstand Field.
‘The main Southsea Common area (known as the Waterfront Festival Arena for this event) was a ‘free to access’ site where people could either pre-reserve their free day tickets via Ticketmaster or simply turn up on the day.
‘Within the main Southsea Common site, Blue Reef Aquarium remained open as normal during the event on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and members of the public had full access.
‘On Sunday, July 26, at 11.12am, the decision was taken to evacuate the site with recorded wind gusts of over 40 knots and an extreme weather forecast for the remainder of the day.
‘This decision was made from a public safety point of view.
‘The evacuation was started at 11.12am and during that time we had to restrict access to the site to enable a smooth and fast evacuation of public.
‘Full site evacuation was completed by 11.59am. At 12.11pm a headcount was taken for members of the public inside Blue Reef Aquarium.
‘At 12:19pm, access/egress was reinstated for those that wished to visit or depart from the Blue Reef aquarium and other existing seafront attractions.
‘At no stage did we ever state that access to the Blue Reef Aquarium was free.
‘We have set out from the start to engage with the existing seafront attractions to ensure that everyone benefited from this event.
‘Public safety is paramount and we are fully confident that the right decision was made yesterday to evacuate the site, the scenario of an injured member of public would have been a far worse outcome and a risk we were not willing to take.
‘We will be in touch with all of the seafront attraction businesses for a full event review looking ahead to 2016.’