The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Sam Kerkhofs

Sam Kerkhofs

Founder and Managing Director, Sporthouse Group (1987)

Can you describe what you do?

Six years ago, I founded my company Sporthouse Group. We develop websites and social media accounts for professional athletes – think Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, Youri Tielemans, Nacer Chadli, Steven Defour, Dennis Praet, and Jasper Stuyven –, and after a couple of years started working for other companies and media brands as well. Today, we’re responsible for all the online content production of Play Sports, Belgium’s most famous sports TV network; Flanders Classics, responsible for the organisation of renowned Flemish cycling races; Lieven Maesschalck’s Move To Cure rehabilitation centre; and other smaller companies within the sports industry. We’re a concise team of ten members, where creativity is always key. For the time being, Sporthouse Group is able to compete on an international level from its home-base in Belgium – and I hope to keep this up for as long as possible.

How do you perceive Leuven?

For me, Leuven is home. I’ve spent a lot of time abroad, and have seen places far more beautiful than Leuven – but never more special. Even if I might not miss home, it’s always great to come back. I like the fact that Leuven has an expansive history, and I’m in love with its rock’n’roll edge. The University and its students keep the city young and alive. And of course, everyone is familiar with the local brewery’s smells, hitting your sense when you first enter the city.

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

I like its small community, and the fact that we all know each other. Sure, I feel the urge to move abroad, just to be able to compare and measure my qualities with the best in the world. Belgium is a great place to kick-start a career thanks to its small scale, but it can also feel like a playground very quickly. If I ever have children though, I’m certain I’ll come back to settle down in Leuven. It might not be a big city, but for me it’s the perfect city to grow up in. It’s small enough to feel safe, and big enough to develop and follow your dreams.

For me, Leuven is home. I’ve spent a lot of time abroad, and have seen places far more beautiful than Leuven – but never more special.

How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

My father is one of six boys, and the Kerkhofs Brothers were quite well-known in Leuven. For example, one of my uncles was the founder of our beloved urban festival Marktrock. I like the fact that a lot of people know my father, and will often recount his childhood stories to me – it makes me feel very proud, and attached to the city. I’m also really close to my niece, and she also shares the same pride towards our fathers and the fact that we’re Kerkhofs.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

Houses in Leuven are very expensive, so lots of young people are moving out of the city. As a result, many people are being forced to commute to the city by car, whilst our Mayor is looking to ban cars from the city-centre. Sure, it’s not an entirely terrible idea, but it also has the effect of reducing mobility and access to downtown Leuven. Furthermore, my sister and some of my friends have businesses in Leuven, and I don’t feel they’re receiving all the support that they deserve from the City, unfortunately.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?

For me, the symbol of Leuven is Oude Markt: a unique place with a very special atmosphere. I’ve been there maybe one too many times, but I always start missing it if I haven’t been there for a long time. We have some beautiful university buildings, and walking through Muntstraat on a sunny day always makes me feel like I’m in Italy or Spain. In my opinion we have some very cool bars, restaurants and shops – especially for such a small city. During my one year of studies in Bruges, I could recognise that this is a place far more beautiful than Leuven – but also, not nearly as special. There’s a certain unique, youthful energy to be found here.