Brighton i360 first look…..
World’s tallest moving observation tower
The opening day for the British Airways i360 has been a long time coming.There was talk about it for years before the green light was granted for it to be built. We have watched over the construction site for two and half years and watched 9,200 tonnes of materials excavated for the i360’s foundations.
When we took over the Milkmaid Pavilion the building was in a state of disrepair. In 1995 it opened as Alfresco but the restaurant was surrounded by a very shambolic looking seafront. We were the first of many derelict buildings that has been part of the seafront transformation. The children’s playground on the West of the restaurant was built, followed by the Bandstand, the new petanque area and then the arches which were transformed to lovely boutique shops you see now. The remains of the West Pier was a bit of a dead end for many people, who would turn around when walking from Brighton Pier. This area of land was the last piece of the jigsaw that needed renovating to encourage people to keep walking to Alfresco!
So with the biggest tourist attraction to be built in Brighton for over a century it made its first official “flight” on 4th August 2016. It was carrying 200 passengers, 138 metres above the seafront in a glass viewing pod. The futuristic, doughnut-shaped viewing platform elevates up to 200 passengers at a time via a 162 metre-high (532 ft) steel observation tower.
The £46m British Airways i360 is the world’s tallest moving observation tower, the world’s most slender tower and the tallest structure in Sussex. It is three times the height of Nelson’s column and many customers who have dined in Alfresco said it is too high to contemplate riding in. We managed to get tickets for the first public flight and were very excited to be going up in a historic Brighton moment.
Unfortunately, with a few teething problems and the doors not opening, the first flight was delayed by 40 minutes, this left many people nervous about stepping on! There was then news that we were finally allowed on, but not before one of the engineers took to his tool box for a spanner to tighten a screw in the tower! Given the green light to go and the doors to be shut we then alerted the flight team that the engineer was still jammed in between the pod and the tower tightening screws! Then someone alerted staff members of two suspicious tourists. Security team on and guests removed. So anyone who was afraid of the doors not opening, were now even more afraid, and anyone concerned of a security risk were now even more concerned. But without giving it another thought the announcement was made and we were off.
BBC Sussex radio interviewed us and wanted our take on how the i360 would generate business and would encourage the local economy. We were the first ever people to comment on the first ever public flight, live on the radio! The smooth movement was quite incredible and you really appreciate the design and architecture once you are in the 93 tonne ‘doughnut’. It is made of beautiful curves which really give you a great sense of security and you are not aware how high up you are or that you’re moving. Our launch was so smooth that it is was only once the beach began dropping away that we realised the pod was in motion and that our gentle, gradual ascent had begun. This was not a thrill ride – even in today’s inclement gusts. The tower’s cantilever design, we were told, is designed to withstand typical Brighton wind conditions.
We have definitely seen an increase in people at this ‘side’ of Brighton. Customers coming in for a pre or post ‘flight’ meal. We have already been working with corporate clients who have booked their events with us post flight. We felt this is a very exciting project and being on the doorstep of the i360 will benefit significantly.
We recommend you take a flight and why not join us for a meal before or after!