This past week our sister publication, The Telegraph, carried a story in which some entertainment promoters complained about feeling short changed and not getting the whole package of what the new Molapo Piazza (situated at Molapo Crossing shopping complex) had promised to offer.
The two promoters had been some of the first to host events at the newly opened entertainment centre. The opening of the Piazza has nonetheless been a welcome development in the face of the ailing nightlife that has seen the otherwise vibrant Gaborone turn into a sluggish city.
This year however has seen rooftop bars especially at the CBD like Liban Restaurant, Sky lounge and Absolute Vodka become the trendy hangout spots for the fun hungry night crawlers here in Gaborone. It seems property developers are hell bent on gentrifying the city and providing state-of-the-art facilities that will not only redefine the night life experience but also take Gaborone back to the entertainment hub it once was.
“We were contacted by one promoter who was looking for a venue that could handle up to 5,000 spectators,”says Molapo Piazza owner, Luc Vandecasteele. “When we started, only the National Stadium could handle such events. To set up an event, you had to design and set up a stage and rent all sound and lighting equipment.”Vandecasteele says all that requires a whole day to build the stage, another day for the event and one more day to break down the stage.
“When adding the cost of lighting and sound equipment the total cost becomes prohibitive, he says.” Following their own investigations, Vandecasteelesays, they decided to plan an arena that could accommodate up to 4,000 spectators at a time. The arena was constructed at an estimated P7, 5 million.
Lifestyle took a guided tour of the new kid on the block to figure exactly what Molapo Piazza has to offer. Originally a parking area for the shopping complex, the Piazza opens into the south side corridor leading into the complex.
Events and Brand Manager, Kgosi Goodwill, is our tour guide for the day.
When its gigantic prison-esque black gates are open the place-with its pavements,lawns,garden and a couple of concrete benches- looks like just another beautiful mini-recreational park.
Come event night the gates become a barricade,the stage lights are switched on as the stage comes to life and the ‘park’ metamorphoses into a disco. The major complaint by the promoters involved the quality of sound which they say was not up to standard. This is however despite the promoters own admission that the equipment is of highest quality. “The audio equipment they have is of good quality but unfortunately it was not tuned properly,” Karabo Musa of Soul Food had said. “As you can see this is world class sound equipment,” Goodwill says, pointing to the oval speakers above the stage.
“The agreement we had with the promoters was that they would show up with their artists the day before the event so they could fine-tune the sound to their own specifications with the assistance of our technicians from whom we bought the equipment.”Vandecasteele, who also joined us on the tour, says they spent P 1, 8 million on sound and lighting equipment. “The sound equipment was chosen by the local promoters during a testing session that was arranged for them,” he says. “A total of four sound systems were tested and the one purchased was unanimouslyelected by the promoters themselves.” He says the equipment is preferred by all promoters worldwide and was tuned to comply with the local regulations that allow sound of only upto 100 Decibels during public concerts.
Goodwill then takes us through to the side of the stage on which sits eight sewage pipes that connect to the sewage system outside.
“Depending on the number of tickets they intend to sell,we advise promoters to provide supplementary mobile toilets which can be connected to these sewage pipes,” Goodwill says. He says because more toilets are yet to be constructed they currently allow a maximum of 2000 people for each event.
“Unfortunately some promoters do not honour this agreement.”The arena can host up to 4000 people at a time.
Our next stop is in what he calls the ‘holding area’ where artists get to wait their turn before hitting the stage. It has its own bathrooms fully fitted with toilets, basins and showers. The main hall is currently not furnished but Goodwill says promoters can furnish it themselves to their own taste while the management is still working on a permanent solution.
The same, Goodwill says, goes for the ‘VIP’ room which is perched just above the stage and provides an aerial view of the artists and the audience.The main arena (with its own roof) sits between two double storey office blocks that also house a liquor restaurant and a pharmacy among others.
The restaurant is not yet open to the general public but occasionally serves food and drinks during events held at the Piazza. Owned by one Elizabeth, it has also not escaped the wrath of the promoters and a few other customers who complained about the ‘unreasonably high’ price of liquor. “Our charges are more or less the same as other liquor establishments,” she told Lifestyle. “But of course we are open to reconsidering.” Once complete, the Molapo Piazza promises to provide yet another alternative for the local performing arts industry.