Photos by Chuck Utech, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Mall of Asia Arena Mall of Asia Complex Bay City, Pasay City 1309 The Philippines
Year Opened: 2012 Capacity: 20,000
Mall of Basketball
If you like your basketball to be one part rugby, one part three point shooting, and one part rock concert, then the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is for you. Here is a quick primer. The PBA played its first game in 1975 and is the first professional basketball league in Asia, and second oldest in the world, behind the NBA. The PBA features 10 teams. Rules are a mix of NBA and international. A season is comprised of three “conferences” called the Philippine Cup, Commissioner’s Cup, and Governors’ Cup. Winning all conferences in a given season is called a “Grand Slam.” Each conference has particular roster requirements and ends in playoff with a champion. The Philippine Cup rosters are comprised of players of Filipino descent. This Cup is widely thought of as the most prestigious of the three.
For the Commissioner’s Cup, the ninth and tenth place teams from the previous conference are allowed one import no taller than 6′ 11”. The remaining teams have a 6′ 9″ restriction. In Governors’ Cup play, the rule is 6′ 5″ for all teams.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (Ginebra) has been a member of the PBA since 1979, beginning as Gilbey’s Gin. They are by far the most popular professional team in the Philippines. They have won eight championships.
Unlike basketball in the United States, there are no home arenas. There are two main facilities that host PBA games, the Smart Araneta Coliseum (site of the Thrilla in Manilla) and the Mall of Asia Arena (MOA). In times where Smart Araneta and MOA are busy, Philsports Arena and Cuneta Astrodome are used instead.
MOA is the crown jewel of venues in the Philippines. In addition to a regular PBA slate, it is the home of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines and served as the main venue for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. In 2013, the NBA played a preseason game to a capacity crowd featuring the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers. In just two short years it has also hosted concerts of international acts such as Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Aerosmith, and the Jonas Brothers.
Boosted by a nearby first class shopping experience and excellent atmosphere, a trip to MOA is highly recommended if you’re looking for a sporting event in Manila.
Food & Beverage 5
Food and beverage of all types is available and easily accessible from a plethora of concession stands at Mall of Asia Arena. The main concessions popular with the local crowd feature standard arena food. Tubs of popcorn are 70 and 95 PHP (standard conversion is about 43 PHP to 1 USD). A bacon cheeseburger is 100 PHP while a hot dog wrapped in bacon served on a bun is 80 PHP. Local beer San Mig Light and San Mig Pale Pilsen is served in a 12 ounce cup for 65 PHP.
Looking for something different? Try Kobe Kroquette. These are deep fried mashed potatoes with panko coating. They come in different varieties. I sampled a mix and match 3 pack for 75 PHP. I asked for the most popular and was given ham and cheese, crabstick, and seaweed, which are served with tonkatsu sauce. They are quite enjoyable.
Searching for a different type of ethnic cuisine? Next down the line is Jamrock Patty Cafe and their famous Jamaican patties. These are a beef-stuffed delicacy with a pastry crust. A regular patty is 65 PHP or with cheese is 75 PHP.
In addition, there are stands for pizza, tacos, chicken sandwiches and ice cream. Starbucks and Krispy Kreme also have booths. Cost is very affordable. Want a mixed drink? Tanduay Rhum has a booth and a rum and Coke is only 100 PHP.
One main gate on the south side of the complex allows inside access. There is a huge line, but security is quite efficient in moving everyone inside. There are essentially five levels for seating: Patron, lower box, suites, upper box and gallery. Patron seating includes courtside and is on the main floor. Escalators escort fans to their desired section.
I recommend sitting in the box seats. The gallery seating does allow for the lowest price at 125 PHP, but is also in the 500 level. Lower box seats are 550 PHP and allow for a great view and crowd experience.
Mall of Asia Arena features a large, state of the art center court hanging video board. Live action is shown as well as game statistics.
Music during a regular season game is a standard instrumental beat that is usually played at all venues in The Philippines. During the playoffs, both teams have drum lines that sit on each side of the gallery and duel all game, replacing the instrumental beat. Popular music is played during breaks and intermissions. Because the PBA does not play more than a doubleheader in any night, the crew for all venues is mainly the same. Both teams are announced as “Your” team.
Inside, the announcer is very well understood. He speaks English nearly throughout except when asking for everyone to rise for the National Anthem. Although fan support may be lopsided, the announcer does a great job of hyping big plays for both teams. “Japeth Aguilar for THREEEEE!” Also the voice is quite discernible for explanations such as “technical foul on the bench for disrespecting a game official.”
Sound is distributed well in MOA, which is excellent, because even during roars from the crowd, the announcer can make his call. During intermissions a team of three guys appear on the court and shoot t-shirts into the crowd with a slingshot. I appreciate that they shoot those high into the cheap seats. At halftime, one of those fellas sports a harness with backboard on hoop on top and they pass around a small ball to fans to shoot. Made baskets win a prize… a two day supply of Vitamin C. In addition, they have a game where two contestants are at mid court, attached to a bungee cord. The goal is to advance to their respective hoop, dragging the other along, and make a basket. That is very entertaining.
Want to challenge a friend at a three point shooting contest? On the second level is a regulation hoop and three point arc. Free of charge, one can hoist as many jumpers as they can. Two staffers grab rebounds and send balls back on a rack for continued shooting.
Located two blocks from Manila Bay, MOA sits in a shopper’s paradise. Across the street is the spacious Mall of Asia. The mall is currently the 10th largest in the world. It is estimated that 200,000 people visit the mall daily. Nearby are hotels, casinos and a business district.
I really do not know if I have enough superlatives to describe the PBA fans. They are supportive, smart, and quite vocal. The fan experience alone is well worth the price of admission. It is very enjoyable.
There are two main chants one can expect to hear at a Ginebra game. “D-Fense!” and “Ginebra!” (EE-NEH-BRAH!). When a team makes a big shot, fans from that squad will hold up a jersey or handmade banner (ranging from poster board and magic marker to a fancy, stitched felt sign) of the player. Same with a great steal or block. Most of the “super” fans are behind the respective hoops. They are quite mindful to not keep the sign up too long and impede the view of the spectator behind them.
MOA is easy to get to, whether by taxi, bus, or jeepney, but it is located on the Western side of Metro Manila. A 45-60 minute taxi ride is approximately 300 PHP. There are bus and jeepney stops as well as a railway nearby. For visitors unfamiliar with the area or travel, I recommend a taxi.
There is plenty of parking outside the arena and across the street at a mammoth parking ramp. Outside parking allows for tailgating. Again, there is a long line for getting in the gate, but it moves briskly. Outside food, drink and items like strollers and umbrellas are not allowed inside. They can be checked at the entrance.
Inside the arena it is very handicap accessible. There are plenty of guards and security as well as assistants to make sure getting to a seat is a breeze. The concourses are wide and also afford views of the bay and surrounding area.
Smoking? The second floor has a large smoker’s lounge which also serves beer and soda.
The arena and mall both feature taxi bays for a quick exit.
Return on Investment 4
A PBA game at MOA is a joy. One can sit in a box seat, enjoy a variety food, drink and spend less than 1000 PHP. The entertainment level is high for the cost. Since there are hotels as well as casinos fairly close by so one staying in that district could go to a game for a significantly lower price.
It is disappointing that there are no programs for PBA games. The tickets are generic. There is however, merchandise available. T-shirts and jerseys of the teams are available ranging from 300-650 PHP. In addition, Team Philippines hats are available for 395 PHP. Goods are still on sale from the 2013 preseason NBA game as well at a reduced cost.
Restrooms in MOA are easy to access, large and sparkling clean. Views from the arena of the area are special, and even more so after dark. The environment is supportive, family-friendly and fun. Viewing a game at MOA is a definite must.