(SPOT.ph) With less than three months before the much-awaited 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines' newest sports facility—the New Clark City Sports Hub—has finally taken shape amid verdant land in Capas, Tarlac. By November 30, thousands of athletes from all over the world are set to occupy this 60-hectare development, which houses the Athletic Stadium, Aquatic Center, and Athletes' Village. The venue has also been chosen to host the Southeast Asian Games' (SEA Games) closing ceremonies on December 11.
A World-Class Sports Complex
All the facilities within the New Clark City Sports Hub, initially dubbed the Philippine Sports City or Philippine Olympic City, adhere to world-class standards. “Itong facilities na itinayo natin are in accordance to the latest technology for Olympics,” Engineer Isaac David, chairman of MTD Philippines, tells SPOT.ph in an interview.
The Athletic Stadium, for example, was built to conform to the guidelines of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). It has nine 400-meter running tracks, which were certified by the Federation to be under the Class 1 classification. The Stadium also has an outdoor warm-up area with four 400-meter lanes and an indoor warm-up space with two 100-meter lanes.
But what makes the Athletic Stadium stand out is the distinctive color that's been used for the steel bars and columns, dubbed "B+R Active-Orange." This color was created and patented by BUDJI + ROYAL Architecture + Design—the architecture firm behind the conceptual design of New Clark City—to mimic the color of lava coming from Mt. Pinatubo. The anti-corrosive orange paint was manufactured by Jotun, a Norwegian chemical company that also supplies the paint for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Following a design that was inspired by the nearby volcano, the Stadium's ringed roofline looks like a crater opening towards the sky. The walls, in fact, were made from lahar and volcanic debris, instead of the usual cement mix. The chairs, on the other hand, have orange and gray colors arranged randomly, which creates the overall visual effect of flowing lava. The use of alternating colors, incidentally, is a trick used by stadiums around the world to create the illusion of a packed venue—at least when the camera pans past the seats.
The 2,000-seater Aquatic Center is equally jaw-dropping. It was accredited by the Fédération internationale de natation (or the International Swimming Federation), making it suitable for international competitions such as the SEA Games and even the Olympics. The Aquatic Center features three swimming pools: an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50 meters by 25 meters) with 10 lanes at a depth of three meters (about 10 feet), a training pool (50 meters by 21 meters) with a depth of two meters (6.5 feet), and a diving pool (25 meters by 25 meters) with a depth of five meters (16 feet).
While the Athletic Stadium was inspired by the natural wonder that is Mt. Pinatubo, the Aquatic Center takes after the design of a Christmas lantern. Locally known as parol, the holiday decoration is one of Pampanga's most well-known products—particularly San Fernando, a.k.a. the Christmas capital of the Philippines. San Fernando also hosts the Giant Lantern Festival, a big celebration of lights, music, and parol every December.
Aside from the sports facilities, the New Clark City Sports Hub also houses the Athlete's Village, which is slated to be the home of our national athletes. It has 525 units and can accommodate up to 1,000 people. The residence also has its own swimming pool and basketball court. Leading to the Athlete’s Village is the River Park Corridor, which is a boardwalk with pocket gardens and green spaces stretching along the 1.4-kilometer riverbank.
"As Filipinos, we're proud that the Philippine government is putting up this kind of facility. Every Filipino should be proud about this, that the Philippines has this kind of facility that's comparable with the facilities all over the world," says David.
From an Unsolicited Proposal to an "Unprecedented" Project
If you’re wondering how the Philippine government pulled off this dream project, there’s AlloyMTD Group to look at. This Malaysian-based infrastructure conglomerate is present in 13 countries, including the Philippines, where they founded a regional center in 1989. MTD Philippines, the local unit of AlloyMTD Group, is also behind the construction of the 36-kilometer South Luzon Expressway.
"Our business is to look for projects to develop. We look for problems and we try to offer a solution," explains David. He explained that while the terrible traffic in Metro Manila is a problem, it was an opportunity for them.
The company, in February 2017, created a proposal to put up a satellite national government center at the New Clark City and submitted it, unsolicited, to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority—a government-owned development corporation mandated to transform former military bases into useful properties for civilians. "The main objective of putting the national government here in Clark is the Big One," David says, referring to the high-magnitude earthquake that’s expected to hit Metro Manila because of the Valley Fault System.
Putting the National Government Administrative Center (NGAC) in a location far away from the Valley Fault System ensures business continuity in the event of a major disaster, according to him. "Itong lugar na ito is about 70 meters above sea level. Manila is almost at the sea level kaya pag high tide, lumulubog. There are no [nearby] mountains, walang landslide. We are surrounded by the mountain ranges of Zambales and Sierra Madre, so hindi masyadong mabagyo. Walang tsunami, walang flooding, walang [land]slide, walang earthquake," the MTD Philippines chairman adds.
Less than a year later, in January 2018, the infrastructure company broke ground for the first phase of the project—a 250-hectare property allotted for the National Government Administrative Center within the 9,450-hectare New Clark City. Construction officially started in March 2018.
"This was supposed to be a 2020 project but because we are supposed to be a SEA Games site, nagkaroon kami ng deadline. Things became much more exciting," explains Rear Admiral Miguel Rodriguez, project director of MTD Philippines.
Phase 1A, which includes the completion of bicycle lanes, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, a river park, a government building that can accommodate 3,000 employees, a polyclinic, and the New Clark City Sports Hub, was initially expected to be completed and ready for the SEA Games in November. The company, obviously, finished ahead of time since the sports complex was already tested out on August 31 by more than 500 Filipino athletes, who are vying for the chance to represent the country in the upcoming international competition.
Phase 2B, which includes the other government buildings like the Presidential Management Staff, Office of Civil Defense, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, is for completion between 2020 and 2022.
"We were able to implement the construction in a short period of time, less than half the time needed. Imagine, we were given only 18 months. Kung itatayo ito, there should be minimum three years. It's done. Nobody can believe. Unprecedented talaga ito," says David.
When asked what will become of the New Clark City Sports Hub as soon as the SEA Games is over, the MTD Philippines chairman confirmed that it will be "the permanent home of our Philippine athletes" and facilitated by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Here’s hoping that the New Clark City Sports Hub will be open to the public as well.
Photos by Jilson Tiu