Saving the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex: A Timeline
The proposed redevelopment of the Rizal Memorial Stadium (RMSC) has recently been the subject of scrutiny among heritage advocates, athletes, and the public. While it has been declared as an Important Cultural Property and a National Historical Landmark, there are still looming issues over its proposed use.
The RMSC is a testament to the rich history of the country. The Art Deco structure was commissioned by the Vito Cruz Family and was designed by architect Juan Arellano. It was inaugurated in 1934 in time for the country’s hosting of the Far Eastern Championship Games.
It was also the site where Manuel Quezon was named one of the presidential candidates in the 1935 elections. During the Japanese occupation, it was turned into a garrison and was damaged during the war.
The facility was then reconstructed in 1954 in time for the Asian Games and in 2011, it was renovated again.
Many other notable sporting events were held in the RMSC including the Southeast Asian Games (1981, 1991, 2005), 2005 ASEAN Para Games, and the 2006 Asian Women's Club Volleyball Championship.
It also hosted two sold out concerts of the Beatles. The combined attendance was 80,000 with the evening concert was dubbed as their second biggest concert.
The RMSC is indeed a historical and architectural jewel threatened by a misguided vision for development. Here’s the progress in the last 8 months on the RMSC:
November 23, 2016:
News of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada’s desire to convert the RMSC into a commercial center with a mall and cinemas through a joint venture with businessman and developer Enrique Razon broke out.
According to Mayor Estrada, he proposed this project along with four others to President Rodrigo Duterte who promptly approved it.
Mayor Estrada also highlighted that there is a plan to build a modern sports facility in Clark, Pampanga.
This elicited an outcry from different sectors including heritage conservation advocates and athletes.
The group Save Manila launched a petition for the “Manila City Government to improve the Sports Complex instead to be better and redevelop the Harrison Plaza-RMSC area into 60% open and green space.”
The petition has since reached 8,000 supporters.
December 5, 2016:
The Razon Group reached out to the media and defended its redevelopment plans for the Complex.
In a statement, the group said that the City of Manila has not generated any revenue from the sports complex which could have been used to modernize its facilities. The group added that the complex is “virtually unsuitable and unsafe not only for training athletes but especially for holding not only local but also international games.”
The group further expressed that their preservation plan will maintain and fortify the RMSC façade while contemporary buildings housing modern offices and commercial areas run by smart technologies, modern amenities, and green open spaces will be placed inside.
Moreover, they said that proposed business areas will compensate for the expensive and meticulous process of restoring and preserving the façade.
December 10, 2016:
The Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) released a statement on the RMSC saying “Manila residents deserve affordable sports facilities and public open spaces, even as a new national sports complex will be built in Clark. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex should remain as a sports complex, and should be dedicated to the people of Manila.”
Source: Heritage Conservation Society
January 14, 2017:
The House Committee on Metro Manila Development said it will probe Manila City Government’s plan to convert RMSC into a commercial center.
“There is a need to look into this matter to ensure that the laws and policies governing the preservation of important cultural properties are strictly implemented and that sports development programs are not unduly hampered,” Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said.
Source: Manila Bulletin
January 31, 2017: Makati Representative and former Olympian Monsour del Rosario together with other active and retired athletes have opposed the redevelopment plan for RMSC. He also rallied fellow lawmakers to support his stance.
Source: ABS-CBN News
February 16, 2017:
The Manila City Government denied reports that the RMSC will be demolished to make way for commercial establishments.
"Maski na proposal to develop po 'yang Rizal Memorial Stadium ay wala po. Nothing concrete at the moment. Tsismis pa lang po iyan," City of Manila media relations officer Bambi Purisima said in a text message.
Source: ABS-CBN News
March 8, 2017: The planned sale of RMSC was shelved until the Southeast Asian Games are done according to Rep. Del Rosario.
March 27, 2017:
The National Historical Commission (NHCP) declared the RMSC as a National Historical Landmark via Resolution 5, Series of 2017. They underscored not only the lengthy contribution of the facility to the development of sports in the Philippines as well as its role in the country’s history having been “used as a garrison by the Japanese troops but was liberated on February 16, 1945.”
Source: Business Mirror
March 28, 2017:
Mayor Estrada reportedly expressed that the redevelopment of RMSC will push through and will be turned into something beneficial to the city government.
He was adamant that the redevelopment is part of his administration’s urban development program.
The Rizal Memorial Stadium is still owned and will remain to be a property of the government. We will not sell it. It will just be developed into a sport, recreational and business center under a joint venture agreement,” Mayor Estrada added.
April 3, 2017:
According to National Museum Director Jeremy Barns, Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William I. Ramirez acknowledged RMSC’s delegation as an Important Cultural Property.
Ramirez said in a letter to the NM:
“We appreciate with thanks the passing of the said declaration after due deliberation of the National Museum panel of experts. It is with great joy that we accept the recognition. Rest assured of our commitment to protect, preserve and conserve these historical structures considered as cultural heritage, which will serve as inspiration and pride of today’s Filipino youth and the future generation.”
June 18, 2017:
News broke out that Enrique Razon will preserve the RMSC once a deal has been brokered between his company and the City of Manila.
Razon’s group presented their plan for the complex which included preserving the Coliseum, the Swimming Center, the Baseball Stadium, and the Track and Football Stadium.
The fight to save the RMSC continues today. While its fate remains uncertain despite the promises from the local government of Manila, one thing rings true—Manila and its residents need sports facilities and public open spaces and this is something that a well-conserved RMSC can offer for years to come.