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.
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.)
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 VIP level
Read the full-length article and see more exclusive photos on the Aquatic Center in BluPrint Volume 2 2019.
Photographed by Ed Simon