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The whole world inside a box

Portrait

The historic city of Kempten is the largest town in the Allgäu region with over 65,000 inhabitants. Constantly inhabited since pre-Roman times, it is home to a varied architecture dating back centuries. What it had long lacked, however, was a city hall capable of staging major cultural events.

“This was the gap that we hoped to plug with the project,” says Managing Director Christof Feneberg, who together with his brother Hannes is also head of the Feneberg family-owned food retail company. It operates 76 grocery supermarkets in the local region and has been a fixture in the regional retail landscape since 1933.

“Our family and our company have deep roots in this area and this put us in an ideal position to give the city of Kempten something that it really needed,” Mr. Feneberg continues. “After four years in planning, the first sod was turned on the new building in June 2002 and bigBOX Allgäu opened in October 2003 with a three-day premiere gala.”

The success of the venue can be seen in its vital statistics. By the time it celebrated its tenth anniversary, bigBOX Allgäu had already welcomed its 1.5 millionth guest. Just two years later it broke the two million mark thanks to its varied programme of musical, cultural and educational events.

“Over the years we have been able to expand the range of events we offer to bring in an increasingly diverse audience,” says Mr. Feneberg. “In 2013, we opened the bigBOX HOTEL with 124 rooms on seven floors.”

The hotel also has generously proportioned conference and banqueting facilities with 15 separate seminar rooms providing space from 41 to 2,700 m². A public restaurant and bar is open to both hotel guests and bigBOX visitors alike.

A month after it opened, the hotel was awarded four stars by the German Hotel and Hospitality Association (DEHOGA). The venue’s growth has also resulted in the creation of numerous jobs. “When we opened in 2003 it was with a staff of just four people,” says Mr. Feneberg. “Today we have more than 250 employees and annual turnover of ten million EUR.”

bigBOX Allgäu organizes events for up to 8,500 viewers but television and radio link-ups mean that many of its events reach an even larger audience. “The first events to be broadcast live from the venue were a boxing match broadcast by German public broadcaster ARD and a performance of Carmen Nebel on the second public channel ZDF, both of which took place in 2005,” says Mr. Feneberg. “Since then, there have been many more.”

After three years providing a venue for other promotors to stage their events, FH Promotions became a promoter in its own right. “We work closely together with local promoters but also try to attract world class acts,” says Mr. Feneberg. “We plan around three months in advance for each event although with big names the lead time is longer. What sets us apart from other venues is that we take care of everything from security and venue technology right through to publicity and catering. We publish our own what’s on guide called bigMAG which appears five times a year and is distributed in a 70 km radius around Kempten.”

bigBOX Allgäu attracts a very mixed public and has fulfilled its aim of providing a venue that enrichs the lives of the inhabitants of Kempten. “bigBOX Allgäu has fulfilled all the dreams we had when we first started the project,” concludes Mr. Feneberg. “It really offers something for everyone.”

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