Reducing neighbourhood noise hindrance and implementing sustainable energy are the key objectives for the renewal of the legendary Antwerp venue's roof, writes Marc Maes. Built in the early 1930s, the Sportpaleis gained its reputation, both in Belgium and abroad, with the organisation of cycling events, trade fairs and music events.
During WW2, the building was hit by over 220 grenades and rockets, necessitating high-cost repairs. In the '70s, the Sportpaleis became the stage for legendary performances by artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, Supertramp and The Rolling Stones. More recently, in 1997, the Province of Antwerp bought the Sportpaleis , with the exploitation handled by 'nv Antwerps Sportpaleis', including shareholders such as celebrated venue Ahoy Rotterdam, concert promoters On the Rox (Herman Schueremans) and Dutch Mojo Concerts alongside PSE-Belgium, the company owned by Jan Vereecke and Jan Van Esbroeck.
Today, the Sportpaleis has grown from hosting 27 events in 1996 to more than 100 in 2008, with a total attendance of 1.3 million people, making it the country's main indoor event facility.
The renovation of the roof, which started in mid-April, is part of a major refurbishment operation for the venue. Backed by the experience of building the adjacent Lotto Arena, the public-private partnership within the Antwerp Sportpaleis plans to bring into its second century of existence.
Acknowledging the music industry's concern for sustainable energy, the Antwerps Sportpaleis nv opted for an energy roof covered with solar cell modules with an estimated production of some 45,000 kWh per year. "In addition, the new roof is also designed to optimize noise damping to reduce hindrance in the neighbourhood," says Jan Van Esbroeck.
Two companies presented different types of acoustic roof insulation, which were A-B tested in EML Productions' sound laboratory. "We built a mini Sportpaleis in an acoustically 'dead' room," explains Patrick Demoustier, sound engineer with EML. "A first test went without any insulation, like the venue is today, then we tested the two types of insulation in a very realistic configuration. The materials suggested by roof engineering and construction company Atab resulted in an additional 6dB acoustic damping in the 90-400 Hz range, bringing about a substantial drop in noise hindrance for the venue's neighbourhood. The one thing the 13cm thick roof insulation cannot damp[en] are the subs generated with concerts or dance events."
Demoustier used two systems alongside each other: a Bruel&Kjaer Smart system with class 1 microphones to define the noise level ranges, and a 10EaZy noise measuring system for sound pressure.
Van Esbroeck said that the new roof, which will also have positive implications for the interior acoustics and heating costs, represents an investment of €2 million. The job will take five months and will have no impact on the venue's event programme.