Antwerp’s 7,500-capacity Lotto Arena is due to open March 10th with "My First Night," a sort of children’s version of the highly successful annual Night of The Proms seasons.
The new arena is a smaller version of the neighbouring 18,000–capacity Sportpaleis, and is designed to allow shows a simple upgrade to the larger venue when ticket sales demand.
All the seats in the new baby Paleis, which is a public-private partnership between the city of Antwerp and the Sportpaleis management and cost about euro 13 million, have a twin seat in the larger building.
Another undisclosed amount of further funding has come from a 10-year branding deal with the Belgian National Lottery, which runs the popular Lotto draws.
The Province of Antwerp bought the older building in 1997, when the company that had owned it went bankrupt. PSE-Belgium, which promotes the Night of The Proms shows, looks after the running of it and will be doing the same in the new building.
In cooperation with the city, PSE has already worked out a deal with the Antwerp public transport network that allows all local visitors a free ride to and from the venue.
The same scheme has been running in the Sportpaleis, which has resulted in as many as 30 percent of the crowd using public transport. For those who live too far out to make that possible, there are 4,000 parking places.
"It’s the first mid-sized venue in the Antwerp region, which is a densely populated area with about 10 million people living less than an hour away," PSE’s Jan Van Esbroeck explained.
"It’s ideal for acts who have become too big to do just a night in the Brussels Ancienne Belgique, but not ready to play larger places like The Sportpaleis or The Forest National."
The new Lotto building is the final phase of the euro 25 million revamp of the Sportpaleis site, which began shortly after the province took over in ’97.
It has included a new fascia for the main building that was completed in ’99 and a hospitality centre that opened in 2005.
As a smaller copy of the Sportpaleis, the Lotto has the same good sight lines and is designed to keep the audience close to the action.
It can be reconfigured to deal with crowds ranging between 3,500 and the 7,500 sellout capacity. It has 16 meters’ clearance and rigging capable of handling up to 50 tons.
Built as a versatile multifunctional venue, the Lotto is already filling its diary with concerts, musicals and sporting events, although the latter have a reduced seating capacity of 5,259.
Already confirmed are six shows from Holiday On Ice, six performances of a children’s musical, an appearance from The Harlem Globetrotters, and concerts with Deep Purple and such major local talent as Natalia (three sellouts), Zornik, and Kate Ryan.
Starting March 14th, the Lotto will also become a popular arena for basketball fans as the Sanex Antwerp Giants, which has won the national league 16 times and the national cup competition 10 times, will be playing its home games there.
Van Esbroeck is hoping that "at cruising speed," the Lotto will be hosting about 95 events per year and attracting about 400,000 visitors.
The Sportpaleis hosts about 115 events per year, attracting 1.5 million visitors. Recent sellout concerts include Pink, Bruce Springsteen, George Michael, Muse, Christina Aguilera, Shakira, and Placebo.