Waiting for Iglesia ni Cristo’s PH Arena

The Philippine Arena is on schedule for the Iglesia ni Cristo's 100th anniversary

MONUMENTAL. The Philippine Arena is set to be completed in early 2014, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Image from Wikimapia

MANILA, Philippines – The Iglesia ni Cristo is one of the largest religious groups in the world with more than two million adherents.

It is widely regarded to be the largest independent Christian church in Asia and the largest entirely indigenous Christian denomination in the Philippines.

The INC’s influence is felt most during elections, when politicians woo its solid voting bloc.

The INC is set to celebrate its 100th year anniversary on July 27, 2014. It was on this day in 1914 when founder Felix Manalo officially registered the church with the Philippine government. His grandson, Eduardo Manalo, is the INC’s current Executive Minister.

Any doubts on the group’s clout and resources will be banished by their literally monumental preparations for their 100th year.

The major feature of these preparations is the Philippine Arena now nearing completion in the Iglesia ni Cristo complex in Bocaue, Bulacan, near the North Luzon Expressway.

It will include a hospital, school, and stadium open to non-INC visitors and nearby residents. But the most glorious feature is the Philippine Arena, which, upon completion, will be the world’s largest multipurpose domed arena. 

Taking up 810,000 square feet (7.5 hectares) of land, it holds up a dome spanning 390,000 square feet (3.6 hectares) and can seat 50,000 people. In comparison, the dome arena next in size – Staples Center in Los Angeles, United States – holds only 21,000 people.

According to the official INC website, the roof will contain 9,000 tons of steel and will span 520 feet or one and a half football fields. The entire structure will be 200 feet or around 15 stories high.

According to Inquirer.net, the construction of the entire INC complex costs a staggering P9.4 billion. 

See the Philippine Arena construction site as of June 2013:

World-class contractors

If the figures don’t impress you, perhaps the contractors behind the project will. The arena, meant to be world-class, is the project of 3 major building and architecture firms.

Korean building company Hanwha Engineering and Construction Corp, which has built major sports complexes in South Korea and structures in the Middle East,  is the major building contractor for the Arena.

According to Korea Herald, the corporation signed a US$175 million (P7.6 billion) contract with INC for the project.

Chris Sparrow of Büro Happold, an international engineering consultancy, is also part of the team behind the Philippine Arena. Sparrow has worked on the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macao Bridge and Guangzhou-Shenzen Express Rail Link. His company won awards for their work on the Aviva Stadium in Ireland and redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the United Kingdom. 

Andrew James of Populous is the Philippine Arena’s structural design consultant. Populous, an international architectural firm specializing in sports and convention centers, is behind such famous venues as the Yankee Stadium in New York, London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium and Stadium Australia in Sydney. 

Watch the groundbreaking ceremony here:

At the groundbreaking ceremony on August 17, 2011, James called the project “the most exciting and ambitious…that we know of in Asia. It will probably be the largest and most important building in the Philippines for the next 10 years or more.”

Boon for development

Eduardo Villanueva, mayor of Bocaue, Bulacan at the time of the groundbreaking ceremony, said the land on which the arena is being built used to be unirrigated farmland. It was reclassified for the project. 

Bulacan officials expect the arena to drive economic development and tourism in the province.

James anticipates the Philippine Arena to be a major sports facility.

“If the Philippines chooses to bid for a Southeast Asian game or any Asian games, this building can be one of the key features of the bid for that game. It may be used for an opening or closing ceremony as well.”

Already, the Philippine Olympic Committee is eyeing the giant dome as a training center for national athletes. 

Videos of the construction site taken in June show the finished frame of the arena. But on July 22, according to a GMA report, two construction workers died after they fell while attempting to remove a support in the dome. – Rappler.com

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