July 29, 2019, two months after our first visit to the New Clark City Sports Complex, the site couldn’t be any more different. The rainy season was in full force at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games’ main venue. The sky was overcast with clouds heavily laden with rain, and the soil was soaked and muddy with puddles of water where the earth undulates, a contrast to the parched landscape we first visited, where clouds of dust swirled whenever our shoes hit the dry ground. But the downpour had no effect on the speed with which the 7500 men worked to complete all the buildings in the complex by 31 August.

August 31st is the deadline set by developer and contractor, MTD Philippines, for the turnover of the projects to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). The original government requirement was for MTD to turn over the buildings on October 31st, a mere month before the SEA Games. By aiming for August 31st, MTD will turn over the sports complex three months before the games start.

According to the president of MTD Philippines, Patrick Nicholas David, the New Clark City Aquatic Center is 90% complete. The filtration system, water pumps, and storage tanks have long been installed. The Olympic-standard metal-plated and PVC-lined pools are almost done. Workers were in the midst of painting the lines on the competition pool. The next step is to fill the pool with water, set up the bulkhead, lane lines, diving boards, and dry land diving equipment, and get the filters running.

“The bulkhead specialist is arriving tonight. Tomorrow, they will unload the bulkhead and other equipment from the five container vans outside and assemble them,” David says.

BCDA president Vince Dizon (left) and MTD Philippines president Patrick Nicholas David (right) stand on the ground where the commercial center will be built

David said that the pools will be filled with water on 8 August for a series of test-runs before representatives of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) arrive to certify the pools in mid-August.

As soon as the pools are certified, David says, Filipino athletes will be allowed to train in the facilities. “Technically, we should not be handing over anything to BCDA yet, but since we want the athletes to train already, we’re doing a partial-handover,” David says. “We want our athletes to perform. It’s our new sports facility. Nakakahiya naman kung sila ang kulelat.” (It would be too embarrassing if they finished last.)

The two presidents discussing the latest updates on the sports complex with the Aquatic Center in the background

David and BCDA president Vince Dizon were visibly excited as they showed BluPrint around even as the rain poured intermittently. “I come here three times a week, and every time I visit, there’s always something new to see,” says Dizon. Asked how he feels about the nearing completion of the sports complex, he answered, “It’s very difficult to describe, to be honest, especially when I think that the last time the Philippines built facilities like this was in 1934 when we built the Rizal Memorial Complex. It was world-class then, but not anymore, 80 years later. We really needed to build something new for everybody, because this city is going to be for everyone, especially the sports facilities for our athletes.”

Here’s how the Aquatic Center looked 33 days before the internal turnover.

The roof

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An aerial view of the Aquatic Center, featuring its iconic roof now completely clad. The translucent parts are uPVC panels.
The uPVc panels on the roof mimick the translucence of the capíz windows of vernacular Filipino houses and the parol (lantern).

READ MORE: IN PHOTOS: New Clark City Sports Complex 94 days before turnover

The entrance

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Spectators arriving by car may access the entrance to the Aquatic Center via the vehicle ramp connected to the main road (right), while pedestrians and PWDs have separate access points on the side.
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View of the ramp from the topmost level of the bleachers

Competition pool

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According to David, the competition pool’s 25-meter-long aluminum bulkhead will take about three days to assemble as it comes in three pieces. Once assembled, and its insulation is cured, the buoyant bulkhead will be put once the pool is filled with water.
View of the PVC-lined competition pool from the scoreboard. The pool, including the diving and practice pools, will be filtered for impurities and other requirements, with filters locally distributed by Alpha Pools.


A specialist from Myrtha Pools (in gray) and a local worker mixing the paint for the competition pool floor.
“We have specialists only on specialist items. The pool is a very technical and very specialized construction or methodology that we don’t allow any other person except them. Of course, they hired local help,” says David.
The Myrtha specialist and a local worker painting on the lane lines on the pool floor

READ MORE: We visited New Clark City’s Aquatic Center 94 days before turnover—here’s how it looked

Diving pool

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View of the diving pool and the diving tower from the bleachers
On our last visit on 29 May, the diving tower was in its formwork. “This diving tower is not your traditional square box tower. It’s highly irregular: its base is cylindrical, tapering in the middle, then splitting into two, and then tapering again. So, the formwork itself is highly irregular, special customization,” says David.
The intermittent rain on the site inadvertently created a shallow pool of water, which the workers needed to drain and clean up every time. However, David assures, “We will clean those drains out as well. We cannot avoid it because we’re still doing the dive tower. After we finish construction, we would minimize and remove dirt particles or mud.”
Parts of the diving tower will have diving boards installed, while the others will be fixed as is.
“This entire thing is massive, its long cantilever could fit a small truck,” David adds.


Practice pool

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The practice pool was the first to be completed. On the day of our visit, the pool is filled with water to test for any leaks and other issues that may occur.
According to architect Miles Rezano of Budji+Royal Architecture+Design, the practice pool is equipped not only for warming up but also for local and regional aquatic sports events.

READ MORE: LOOK: New Clark City’s Athletic Stadium 5 months before its turn over

Spectator seats

Most of the seats for the spectators have been assembled on the bleachers, only the top three precast concrete bleachers need seating.
While the seats are installed and the steel components are painted already, the concrete will remain unpainted for easy maintenance.
Workers carrying the remaining seats to the top bleachers.

The VIP level

Access to the upper floors, including the VIP section, are either through the elevator or the stairs. Pictured here is the installation of steel cladding on one of the two sets of staircases.
Interior view of the steel-clad staircase.


The VIP level already has floor-to-ceiling glass installed for an unobstructed view of the sporting events below.

Read the full-length article and see more exclusive photos on the Aquatic Center in BluPrint Volume 2 2019.

Photographed by Ed Simon

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