The 75th season of the UAAP is still a good 11 months away, but this early, next year's host National University is making sure it leaves no stone unturned as it teams up with its parent group to unveil the newest sports and entertainment venue in the metropolis.
Promising "never-before-seen opening ceremonies", NU will launch Season 75 at the state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena, the SM Group's latest project slated to open its doors in May of next year. The SM Group is a major shareholder of NU.
"The opening will be at the MOA Arena," NU Athletic Director Junel Baculi said today at a press conference at the SMX Convention Center. Aside from the opening ceremonies, Baculi said the new arena will also host next season's Ateneo-La Salle games, the championship series and the cheerdance competition.
However, Baculi clarified that this does not mean the league be totally abandoning the Araneta Coliseum, venue of most of this season's games and a partner of the UAAP for several years now. "We're not abandoning the Araneta (Coliseum) per se. We just want to highlight the MOA Arena because we're in partnership with SM."
Baculi added he hopes the host school can put up a good showing next season. "We're coming off a rebound. We were the perennial whipping boys of the UAAP, all bark. Now we're biting."
NU was supposed to host the games this season, but switched places with Ateneo so that their hosting would coincide with the opening of the new arena.
The MOA Arena will have a full house capacity of 20,000. For basketball games, capacity will be "16,000 comfortable seats," according to MOA Arena Sports Manager Brian Sebial. The facility will also have more patron and lower box seats than the Araneta Coliseum.
Before the UAAP opening in July, the MOA Arena will most likely host one or two events after it opens, according to Erl Orenza, Assistant Vice President for Events. "We are the first to offer facilities like corporate suites and of course other amenities." Among these are wi-fi access and a press box for media covering events.
A trade launch of the arena is set for October 11, where comprehensive designs of the facility will be shown. A multi-level parking area with a walkway is also being constructed alongside the arena.
Last month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced it would be holding its 2012 games at the MOA Arena, the first major sports league to do so.
If all goes well, it might not just be collegiate games that will be played at the MOA Arena. Sebial said they are also in talks with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), another major Araneta Coliseum client. "Right now we can't reveal anything yet," Sebial said. "But it's true that we're talking about it. Having PBA games at the Mall of Asia Arena is not far off."
For his part, NU Director for Purchasing and Alumni Affairs Nilo Ocampo assured the students that they will keep ticket prices affordable. "Most likely it will be the same for the UAAP, but the UAAP Board will decide on that."