IN PHOTOS: Massive artificial-grass football pitch to open in Lipa

MANILA, Philippines – The field, which does not have an official name yet, is located in The Outlets at Lipa, a 9.3 hectare outlet mall within the Lima Technology Center in between Lipa and Malvar in Batangas. It's a project of Lima Land Inc., an Aboitiz company. The Aboitizes love football, as evidenced by the Aboitiz Cup they hold yearly in Cebu. Eduardo “Dudes” Aboitiz, GM of The Outlets at Lipa, is both a football enthusiast and a triathlete.

 Here is the view from the opposite side. The total playing surface is an vast 106 meters by 92 meters, making this easily the biggest turf field in the country that I know of. See that expanse of white on the right side? That is still part of the field and will be covered in artificial turf. 

Here is how it works. The two fields demarcated with the yellow lines are two pitches measuring 88 meters by 51 meters, roughly the size of the Turf BGC pitch but a tad bit wider. That's a great size for recreational, out-of-shape folks like myself who want to play 11-a-side. It's also fine for kids and women. The field with the white lines in the middle is a proper 102m by 68m regulation field for high-level play. Just imagine how many 7-a-side pitches can be shoehorned into this surface. I think 6 could fit comfortably, maybe even 8.

The regulation field has a good northwest-to-southeast orientation. The smaller yellow-line fields go almost east-to-west, so pregame coin tosses in those pitches in the mornings and late afternoons will be very critical. You don't want the sun in your eyes when going for goal.

 

This is the shockdrain under the synthetic grass. This layer has a dual purpose: to provide additional shock absorption as well as drain water horizontally off the field. Audris Romualdez of E-Sports, the project's contractor, says this technology can ship 500ml of water per second per square meter, making rainy-day football more fun than it already is. The only demerit is that there might not be any puddles for face-first sliding goal-celebrations in a downpour.

Speaking of the weather, the site is 297m above sea level. When we visited it was a bit rainy and pleasantly cool.

The “grass” is from Limonta, the Italian firm that provided the surface in Rizal Memorial, Sparta, Biñan, Turf BGC, and McKinley Hill. It's 40mm high, less than the 60mm of Rizal Memorial, but Romualdez says the shockdrain makes it feel just as cushy. There will of course be rubber infill. This is a hard-wearing product that has a 5-year warranty for 24/7 use. Romualdez says she is confident that if tested, it would pass the FIFA Quality Pro standard, the new name for FIFA 2 star. FIFA Quality Pro means the field is suitable for the final stage of an elite senior men's competition.

 

There will be 4 lighting towers in the corners. The lighting will reach about 500-600 lux, short of the 900-1000 lux usually required for TV. But E-Sports says the towers are strong enough for additional lights to reach that standard.

 

There will be grandstand seating for 1500 folks. Beneath the seating you can find 6 dressing rooms with more than 400 lockers and 38 shower rooms. This surfeit of locker rooms is ideal for having more than one match a day, or for a big festival with plenty of teams and games.

 

 

Marice Ofrin, the Commercial Marketing Manager of Aboitiz Land, says more bleacher seating can be added here to bring up the capacity to a total of 2000. That number is likely more than you will ever need for most events. By the way, on top of the hill is a parking lot.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Could this venue host a PFL team? Ofrin says there have been some preliminary talks but nothing is final.

   

This is perhaps the most awesomesauce feature of this pitch. This is the back of the grandstand, and those areas between the red columns are earmarked for bars and restaurants that will overlook the field. Aboitiz understands that the best way to watch a football game is with a cold one in your hand. Absolute genius!

   

In the foreground one can see the wide ramp that leads from the outside of the grandstand to the inside. That makes ingress and egress a painless affair, no more pushing and shoving to get in and out. It's PWD-friendly too. Fair play to WTA Architecture + Design Studio for the design of the facility.

In the background is the outlet mall that will feature several top brands, including major sportswear brands. So if you miss a potential game winner from five yards out then you know what to do. Blame it on your shoes and pick up a new pair right after the game.

This outlet mall will be similar to Aboitiz's Pueblo Verde outlet in Lapu-lapu City, Cebu.

 

 The field will be ready for play by late May, but in June 23, Aboitiz will hold a big tournament there. By then all of the facilities should be complete.

Special thanks to Audris Romualdez and Johann Casal of E-Sports for their help in this article!

 Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.

 – Rappler.com