MANILA, Philippines – The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex is no longer for sale and PSC chairman Richie Garcia said the other day there is a P200 million plan to refurbish the aging facility to include an artificial turf for baseball, a new building for bowling and covered tennis courts. But the best news is the door is still open to construct a training hub on a 50-hectare property at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga.
Negotiations to build the training hub bogged down when the Clark International Airport Corp. stood firm on an asking price of P150,000 per hectare for a total of P7.5 million. Garcia said feelers were recently sent by Clark to resume talks.
POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. has actively pushed for the relocation of the training site which at the start, was supposed to be given for a token amount by Clark. When it was speculated that the Rizal Memorial would be sold to a private group at a price of about P5 Billion, negotiations for the Clark hub took a 360 degree turn. From a donation, the property owners asked for a lump sum of P150,000 then it went up to a price of P150,000 per hectare.
Garcia explained that the concept of a training hub is to build a Spartan facility with no provisions for spectators. “Our dream is to provide a healthy atmosphere for our elite athletes,” he said. “It will be pollution-free with only electric cars running. The road system will be efficient. We’re hoping for Congress to allocate P2 billion for this project. To jumpstart it, the PSC will pump in P300 million. Overall, we estimate the project to cost P3 to P3.5 billion. Whatever the shortfall, we’re banking on the private sector to pitch in and cover up. Representative Albee Benitez, who is the secretary-general of the Philippine Badminton Association, has pledged to contribute funds and we expect more pledges from the private sector and sports patrons.”
Garcia said in preparing studies for the hub, the PSC received a proposal from contractor David Lim to build pre-fab warehouse-style structures at a cost of P300 million. “This will take care of indoor training,” he said. “They will be like warehouses and we’ll operate them like gyms. They’re not stadiums because we’re not building structures for spectators. We’ll spend the rest of our budget on advanced training equipment and the construction of an Olympic standard swimming pool, oval, basketball court, baseball and softball turfs and a field for athletics events.”
It was initially planned to sell the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex which is co-owned by the City of Manila and the PSC. An interested buyer even surfaced and with its projected share of the proceeds, the PSC intended to finance the construction of the hub at Clark. But when the deal was scuttled, the PSC decided to plan for the renovation of the 81-year-old, 9.3-hectare complex instead and look for an alternative solution to fund the move to Clark.
Garcia said when President Aquino steps down from office next year, he, too, will leave the PSC. “Honestly, I don’t know what to do when I leave the PSC,” he said. “I’ve been with the PSC for the last 15 years, first as commissioner then as chairman over the last five years. I’ve served under three presidents first with President Estrada then with President Arroyo and now with President Aquino. I’m hoping before I leave, work will have started on the training hub at Clark.”
Garcia said it will take about two years to finish the construction of the training center. “If we get it going by January next year, the center will be ready for use by the end of 2017,” he said. “The renovation of Rizal can be finished within a year. When we were asked to pay P150,000 per hectare for Clark, we thought that was the end of it. This isn’t a money-making project so we were surprised to find out that we were being asked to pay. But lately, we’ve been contacted to resume negotiations. If the land could be donated as was originally envisioned, then we could focus on raising funds for the necessary equipment to put our athletes up to par with the rest of the world. Our neighboring countries are moving ahead of us in terms of developing elite athletes and they’ve got world-class training facilities.”
Source: Nov 7 Philstar