The company began in 1997 after acquiring the Antwerps Sportpaleis. Major renovations were needed, so for the first couple of years heavy investments were made in the building and surrounding infrastructure. In 2007, the Lotto Arena was built to fill a growing need for a medium-sized venue. “This arena holds up to 7,000 and hosts a wide variety of events,” adds Chris Bergs, B2B Manager.
In 2012, the firm expanded into the city of Hasselt and took over the Ethias Arena. This venue was made smaller, but an extra theater was added. In 2018, the adjoining halls were renovated for exhibitions and became Expo Hasselt. In 2013, the business expanded again, this time into Brussels.
The Forest National, which is the oldest theater in Belgium, became a part of the growing group. This acquisition opened up the French-speaking market for the firm, which was a huge boost. Finally, in 2014, two more theaters were added, one in Ghent and one more in Antwerp.
This wide range of venues means that the Sportpaleis Group is able to host about 600 concerts and events annually. For the bulk of the shows, the company plays host to many classical events like concerts. In the Lotto Arena, which was purchased with the help of the city of Antwerp, many sporting events are put on, about 50 per year in this location.
The Sportpaleis, the biggest arena in the group, puts on shows from big name performers like Cher and Christina Aguilera, as well as corporate events/meetings, presentations and other types of shows. “For every event, we offer a corporate program that has many great B2B packages and VIP offers,” says Mr. Bergs.
The VIP experience is a great way to entertain important business guests or to say ‘thank you’ to hardworking employees and their families. Booking as a VIP gives the customer a private parking pass, early access to the venue two hours before the scheduled event begins, complimentary food and beverage options, the best seats in the house for the show and private areas to store jackets or use the restroom. After the concert or other event has concluded, there is an after-show party for the VIPs where invaluable networking often occurs. These packages can range from hosting four people, all the way up to 600.
Meetings are occasionally hosted by the Sportpaleis, but often that large of a space is not required. However, at times, the company does cooperate with the Antwerp Congress Center for these types of bookings. “This spring the congress center is hosting a European congregation for two days and the attendees are coming to the Sportpaleis for the final show and festivities,” explains Mr. Bergs.
From global entertainers to premier league sporting events to large business exhibitions, the Sportpaleis Group has a venue for every type of event. Chris BergsB2B Manager
Other events that the group is hosting are, premier league basketball games, a choral show with 12,000 choir singers, farewell tours from artists like Elton John and Paul Simon, as well as smaller names in the music industry.
Some changes that have been happening recently are tastes for different types of performers and performances. Stand-up comedians have surged in popularity over the last decade and can now fill up the large venues. For this reason, big name Belgian comic, Alex Agnew came to the stage for three consecutive days from the end of May to early June.
Other new types of performances include shows put on by famous DJs who bring their own audio-visual equipment into the venue. “In 2023, we are very thrilled to be playing host to the world championships of the International Gymnastics Federation,” adds Mr. Bergs.
Other non-performance related changes revolve around the evolution of food and drink within the realm of entertainment locations. In the past, a beer and a small sandwich was all ticket holders wanted or expected. Today, guests expect to be treated to a much wider range of culinary options. To keep its customers happy, the Sportpaleis Group is constantly changing the food and drink options customers can purchase to keep things fresh.
The VIP areas are also updated every two years to make sure they continue to meet the needs of the package holders. Finally, to make things like purchasing as customer-friendly as possible, the firm is constantly updating and investing in communication platforms, ticket ordering platforms, payment options during shows and hosts its own radio platform, Sportpaleis FM on 107.0 in Antwerp so guests can get into the concert mindset while getting ready for the show.
The Sportpaleis Group is the ideal partner for organizers of events of all kinds and with its experienced and enthusiastic team of 90 full time employees, it is able to offer clients an optimum level of support.