Amanda Fernandez creates her football field of dreams

MANILA, Philippines - “I’m not just a businesswoman out to make money,” says Amanda Fernandez, “I'm also an athlete constructing an athletic facility. So I won't scrimp if I'm going to use it myself.”

The host of the GAMEPLAN sports and lifestyle webshow turned her dream into reality when SPARTA, (Sports and Recreational Training Arena) finally opened last Sunday.  

SPARTA is now one of two indoor artificial grass pitches operating in Metro Manila. The other is The Camp in Taguig. Kick Off, another indoor field located in Muntinlupa, ceased operations last year.  

To my knowledge there are now eleven artificial grass football venues of varying sizes in the Metro Manila area, namely Rizal Memorial, FEU Diliman, The Camp, Chelsea Blue Pitch, British School Manila, (they also have a natural-grass field), Emperador Stadium, the newly-reopened Turf BGC, International School Manila, King's School, The Valdes family pitch in San Juan, and now SPARTA. 

There are reports of another turf soon to appear in Laguna plus I have heard talk of UP Diliman planning to make their field at their oval plastic as well.  

SPARTA is located on a second-floor warehouse area along Pioneer street in Mandaluyong. It's in the same complex as Persiana restaurant.  

The playing surface is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide. It feels significantly longer than The Camp, and although there are beams above the pitch, they appear to be higher than those in the Taguig facility.  

Fernandez has gone for the Philippines' most experienced supplier with her surface, E-Sports International. E-Sports laid down the synthetic surface of Rizal Memorial, Emperador Stadium, Kick Off, and Turf BGC. 

“It makes sense for me to go for quality since I'll be practicing there myself,” says Fernandez, who plays for and runs her own women's team, Sikat FC. (That's pronounced “SEEkat” as in “sikat ng araw,” by the way.)

The surface is Limonta Infinity 40mm. It's a hybrid of high-end monofilament fibers like those in Rizal Memorial, and more durable and affordable fibrillated yarn. Limonta is an Italian brand but the infill granules are from Spain, says E-Sports' Yo Casal. Silica sand is also part of the infill. 

According to Casal, this grass is harder-wearing and is ideal for smaller installations where there is more wear than in a full-sized field. Casal says Limonta gives this grass a five-year 24/7 play warranty. It should last much longer than that. 

The penalty area is a box, unlike the semicircles in other small fields, and it is huge; fifteen meters by 9.5 meters. There was only one set of goal frames on Sunday, and they were nice big ones, 190 cm (75 inches) tall and 500 cm (197 inches) wide. Homer de los Santos, who is an investor and also a partner in the venture, says they plan to get other smaller frames as well. You can probably play a festival with three very small pitches for kids aged eight or younger at SPARTA.

If you use the whole pitch you can probably play a decent seven-a-side game here, which is a big bonus. The steel beams are a bit low, but they force youngsters to keep the ball on the ground, which is what many coaches preach anyway. There are windows on either side of the pitch, but they only open on one side. There are 36 caged LED lights on the ceiling and four exhaust fans.  

The SPARTA playing surface is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide. Photo by Bob Guerrero

The SPARTA playing surface is 50 meters long and 25 meters wide.

Photo by Bob Guerrero

The field definitely feels good on the feet. Many other installations in the Metro Manila area are certainly firmer. 

Aside from the pitch there is also a fitness gym at the facility and a nice air-conditioned room with a big glass window with a view of the field. One imagines it as a waiting area for soccer moms.

The rates for the field rental are pegged at P2,500 an hour for off-peak hours from six am to four pm, then P2,700 an hour onwards until midnight. You can book online at their official website, sparta.ph.  

Since Pioneer is smack dab in the middle of the Ortigas and Makati business districts, I can see SPARTA doing brisk business during the evenings.  

De los Santos says that SPARTA eventually intends to convert another spot in the complex into a volleyball court. There will be also yoga, zumba, and dance classes and other activities.  

The project is a highly personal one for Fernandez, who finished high school in International School Manila then picked up a business degree in the University of San Diego.  

Fernandez strikes one as a perfectionist who is dedicated to promoting sports. The proprietor, who also does commercial talenting work aside from hosting, has a tenacious streak, as evidenced by her completing her first triathlon last November for a GamePlan episode. She vanquished the 600 meter swim, 30km bicycle segment, and five kilometer run in two hours and eleven minutes.

At the launch last Sunday, dressed in a formal dress with ancient Greek/Spartan feel, she gave a short but emotional speech to the attendees paying tribute to her grandfather, noted banker Jobo Fernandez, and father Enrique, who chairs the board of the FMF Development corporation that owns the land.  

Dad didn't give her any favors in allowing her to build SPARTA on the company plot. Fernandez needed to make a properly researched business plan and present it to the entire board last June 27. The elder Fernandez reportedly uttered nary a word during Amanda's powerpoint and discussion afterwards. After some grilling, the board gave their nod, and the construction began in October. There aren't any free rides either going forward.  

“Every peso I'm borrowing I will pay back,” insists Fernandez. “With interest.” 

No doubt Philippine football owes her a debt of gratitude as well, as yet another venue for the beautiful game has sprouted in the nation's capital. - Rappler.com 

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.