In the 1930’s, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was inaugurated, giving Filipinos a historic venue to witness basketball history unfold but after countless battles on the Rizal hardwood floor and a rise in the number of basketball fans, the demand for tickets had exceeded the complex’s capacity.
A few decades later, the Smart-Araneta Coliseum took over, and successfully revolutionized basketball history. Then just when everyone thought that collegiate basketball had found a permanent home, the Mall of Asia (MoA) Arena entered the picture.
The first two venues were home to some of the greatest on-court battles that Philippine Basketball has ever witnessed; the third promises to house legends.
From the early days of King Archers Kurt Bachmann and Lim Eng Beng running up and down the wooden floor of Rizal to the sweet shooting days of legendary #4 Ren-Ren Ritualo in the hallowed halls of Araneta, these structures have housed some of the fabled names in college basketball.
The Mall of Asia Arena, inaugurated last May 2012, promises to give patrons a first class and state-of-the-art viewing experience for the next chapter of college basketball history. The MoA Arena is an indoor venue that is set to rival the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. The Arena was built by the SM group and can be found within the SM Mall of Asia complex.
An arena of massive proportions
The five-floor Arena is built on an 18,214 square-meter plot of land, and can seat 16,000 patrons with a full house capacity of 20,000.
Supporters can sit in patron, lower box, upper box or general admission seats, and for convenience, the Arena has 10 elevators and 34 escalators to take fans up and down the floors. The Arena also has 41 corporate suites, located between the lower and upper box; all of the corporate suites are furnished with a mini bar, restrooms and over 30 comfortable viewing seats each.
“The seats are more comfortable. It isn’t hot in the arena even when jam packed. The entire place itself is clean and seems to be organized,” said Patricia Rosario (II, AB-ECM).
From the outside, the Arena is meant to look like an eye and its sides are covered with reflective glass panels.
To avoid accidents and traffic concerns, a pedestrian bridge was built to connect the Arena to the seven-story parking venue, which could accommodate 2,000 cars.
“The MoA Arena really gives me the NBA feeling,” said Gio Gloria (I BS-AEC).
Archers’ rookie guard Thomas Torres also has similar sentiments saying, “If you compare it to the NBA venues, its the same. The locker rooms, the rest rooms, the seats and the court are really nice.”
Alumnus and celebrated PBA Coach Jong Uichico added, “It is a great venue to play and watch a game. It can be an international venue for games.”
Isa Parco (II, MEM-BME) also cited, “MoA Arena is spacious and is designed in such a way that each section gets a clear view of the center.”
Rookie forward Jeron Teng compared the two venues objectively saying, “The MoA Arena is bigger and new so there’s this feeling of playing in an international court. In Araneta, you easily hear the crowd’s cheers because it’s smaller.”
Pancho Chua (III BS-IE) takes a nationalistic stand on the Arena saying, “It shows that Filipino engineers are capable of building institutions that are at par with that of institutions abroad. Moreover, it also shows that Filipino engineers are knowledgeable of what it takes to build a facility such as the MoA Arena.”
Room for improvement
Despite the praises, some believe that there is still much room for improvement in terms of service; some have also criticized the building’s structure.
“The fact that it took a long time for food stalls to serve you plus the long lines shows that it would be better if there were more stalls” quipped Martha Estrada (II, AB-OCM).
She also cited technical glitches, saying, “The lights in the arena would hit your eyes directly in the lower box section, and it would give people headaches.”
Student Greggy Yang (II, BS-IE) complained about the reserved seating arrangement in the cheaper seating areas.
Cherry Ledesma Olbes (LIA-COM, 1982) an avid fan of the Archers added, “The structure is too steep, especially in the upper box section. Entrances are confusing, walls should be visually color coded with its gate name, green and blue.”
The Archers’ main man in the middle, Norbert Torres, also had insights about the seats. “I still like the ambience and vibe at Araneta because it still holds more people and so for an Ateneo-La Salle game it’s going to be pretty interesting.”
Sustainability is the key
“I think that the architectural design is appealing, and I hope that they reinforced the structure well because it stands on reclaimed land.” said Jake Castillo (II, BS-IE).
Yang added, “The stadium itself, everyone is excited about it because it’s new, it’s clean, and it has VIP boxes but let’s see if they can keep it up over the next five years.”
The maintenance and continuous improvement of the Mall of Asia Arena will be critical in the long run. Will it have years of success as the premiere sports and entertainment venue in the Philippines or will it slowly fall apart? Only time can tell.