Fifty Sports Under One Roof: Hasselt Growing Up With Sparks…
For the time being, carpentry and drilling work is still in progress on the upper floors of Plaza’H, the commercial building on the Hasselt ring road where it is also rented by Albert Hagen, Action, Jeske & Twichamp. About 3,500 square meters will be transformed into the largest sports entertainment city in Europe.
A year and a half ago, CEO Mathieu Renier came up with the idea of a sports entertainment concept in which sports are given a digital element to the game. In the end, six young entrepreneurs – four former colleagues in the Decathlon sports store chain – founded the new sports company Sparkx. The letter S in the name is the first letter of ‘sport’, the letter ‘park’ is self-explanatory and the letter X stands for expertise. We want to be a theme park where visitors can try different sports. X also denotes the intersection of generations, genders, and talent. Everyone can come and play sports here at their own level. Alone or in a group,” Rainier says.
The fact that Sparkx is settling in Hasselt for its first theme park is not planned. Usually we start in a city like Brussels or Antwerp, but this opportunity crossed our path. It was especially fun because we had enough height here for the climbing wall and free fall experience. The location is fantastic: on a ring road of a city passionate about innovation,” says Cindy Barnett, who is responsible for real estate and finance at the company. “You also have beautiful views of Hasselt from the park.”
The sports amusement park offers visitors about fifty sports that they can discover. But the magic comes from the digital glossy paint that’s applied to it. “For example, we have a power court that – depending on the sport chosen – will show different targets or lines on the ground. But we are not an arena for esports or virtual reality. Although we do have some virtual reality applications, ”says Brand Manager Michel Fan Your tea.
The concept could count on the endorsement of famous athletes such as former Red Devil Moussa Dembele, tech entrepreneur Peter Hensen or marketing guru Stephen Van Belleghem. “We will announce other names as Sparkx ambassadors later,” says Rene.
The company also focuses on different audiences. “In the mornings we are mainly aimed at schools or companies, and in the evenings and weekends we will mainly have families or groups of friends on the ground. We are expanding our sports offer with workshops or lectures on mental health or healthy nutrition,” he says. says park leader Anja Soenen, who is responsible with Faust Jauvert for day-to-day management. “It will also be possible to rent certain attractions as a group in the evening.”
Sparkx will also be one of the first sites where you can play hado. “Hado is the world’s first techno sport. It was invented in Japan and can best be described as a virtual dodgeball game,” says Van Schaik. “Players wear augmented reality glasses that allow them to see additional objects. They can shoot energy balls at the opponent themselves. He can, in turn, block the attack with a virtual shield. It is a good example of a sporting activity in which the physical and digital merge.”
The list of popular and lesser known sports is endless: Football, Futsal, Handball, Basketball, Cycling, F1, Shooting, Sport Hunting, Hunting, Curling, Winging, Skiing, Mud Shooting, Snowboarding, Baseball, Golf, climbing, are just a few examples. Van Schaik: “We also have a smart punching bag that learns how to punch via AI. If you always hit the same way, the punching bag will start dodging your blows.”
Sparkx will open in the spring, but an exact opening date has not been announced. “On Friday we organize the first open application day with VDAB. Anyone can still register and there will be an application within days,” says Swennen. “We are looking for 40 full-time employees. These will be permanent staff and students. Among other things, they have to operate the attractions and make sure everything is running safely.”
Sparkx’s ambition extends beyond Hasselt. In time, the company wants to open more of these parks in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. “This will be our baptism with fire, but we trust her completely. The concept of Sparkx is also true: we want to bring as many people as possible into contact with as many sports as possible. If people find the sport of their lives through their first acquaintance in our park, then this is the best advertisement we can We wish it,” concludes Rene.
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