By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE purported developer of the first Bahamian-owned water theme park, Adventure World Discovering the Waters, yesterday defended his business from claims that it is not legitimate.
However, the company’s owner Patrick Ferguson told The Tribune that he was selling advance tickets for entry to the park to raise capital for the business, which is reportedly set to open in July. He would not reveal where the planned park will be located.
Concerns were raised to The Tribune last week by a woman who said she attended the company’s job fair at a location on Thompson Boulevard last week and was made to pay $15 for “registration and lunch”.
She said she responded to a newspaper ad for employment at Adventure World Discovering the Waters early last week and sent a copy of her resumé to the company.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said during the job fair the group of about 60 job applicants were also told to return last week Thursday and pay $3 to take part in a clean up of the Englerston community.
She said the group was also urged to pay $400 by yesterday to take part in a “training” programme at a water park in Florida where they would learn skills for their future job.
“He kept asking if we believe in God and if we go to church; then he said that there is no guarantee that we will get the job,” she said of the developer.
The job applicant said the group was told that the park would open this summer.
Last week Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle expressed concern about claims that job applicants have been asked to pay money when applying.
The minister said the government has issued no permits for the creation of the theme park, nor has any such permit application been made to the relevant bodies.
Speaking with The Tribune, Mr Rolle said people who have applied for jobs with the company have contacted him, adding that it is concerning when businesses ask prospective employees for money.
“It is unheard of, I don’t know of any business that charges prospective employees an application fee to apply for a job,” Mr Rolle said.
When contacted for comment yesterday Mr Ferguson, chairman/CEO of “Adventure World,” blamed criticism of its legitimacy on the notion that people refuse to “believe and support Bahamians.”
Mr Ferguson, whose company The Tribune has confirmed has a business license, said job applicants were asked to pay $15 for food and drinks because they were expected to be at the location for nearly seven hours.
“We are not powered up from financial standpoint,” he said. “To get everything we need we had to have them pay only for their food services. We had one hundred plus applicants and we were not in a position to do a one on one interview process so they were here for a long time.”
He claimed that the matter was “clarified with the Labour Board last week,” and added that at least eight people have already been hired by his company.
He said the “training fee” of $400 represented a discount price for a trip to Disney World.
“Four hundred dollars allows us to put a group package together,” he said. “To pay yourself it’s about $1300, with airline alone about $330. Anyone trying to believe we are trying to take something from someone should realize this company is trying to help you.”
The trip to Florida, he said, was necessary so the staff “could see how parks operate.”
Responding to Mr Rolle’s statement that no approvals have been issued for the creation of his proposed theme park, he claimed that because his company is not dealing with foreign investors at this time, it is not required that he seek approval from the government.
Mr Ferguson had hoped that the capital needed for the project would come by selling 100,000 advance tickets for the theme park. He is currently selling advance tickets on his company’s website.
He admitted that his project has not been backed by investors and said that only between 50 to 80 tickets have been sold thus far, something he blamed on the negative publicity surrounding his project.
“If we did not have any negativity in our way, we would not have a problem ensuring that everything would be opened on day one,” he said.
He declined to say how his company will secure the funds needed to create the theme park.
He also could not confirm the location for the park, saying that several sites are being assessed.
“I’m not going to disclose the secret of the company on how we are going to fund this development,” he said, adding that he would need $2 million for the first phase of the project.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said last week said that residents’ concerns over the legitimacy of the project are being looked into.
“We have that information and we are looking at that. It’s not illegal if you want to give somebody your money, the problem comes in if I make you believe that something I am doing is legit and it turns out it is not, in order to defraud people out of money,” he said.
According to Mr Ferguson’s Linkedin profile, he is “seeking International investors for a gold opportunity.”
“If you ever wanted to invest trust me this is the best time. I am also interested in selling 45 per cent shares for $120 million. This will make you a co-founder. The property stand to make more than $600 million a year,” the profile says.
According to the company’s website the first phase of the park will be launched on July 10 and will seek to employ 564 Bahamians during the first and second phases.