A Big Five-O for the Big Dome

This year, the Araneta Coliseum a milestone of sorts as it celebrates its golden anniversary this year.

Yup, the place called as the Big Dome has turned the Big Five-O.

DSC06688Without a doubt the most recognizable landmark in the area of Cubao district in Quezon City, not to mention the district’s entertainment hub the Araneta Center, it was the brainchild of business tycoon J. Amado Araneta who himself came from the distinguished Araneta clan, related to famous personalities like Gregorio Araneta, (Justice secretary during the First Philippine Republic) Salvador Araneta, (founder of FEATI and the now known as De La Salle-Araneta University) and even Mar Roxas. (which explains the Mar Roxas campaign posters that you only see in Araneta Center during elections when he is running for whatever elected position)

Building for this iconic structure began in 1957 and was formally opened on March 16, 1960, back then it was known as the biggest indoor coliseum in the world. While that title has long been surpassed by others, it still holds the record of being the largest indoor venue in Southeast Asia that can hold as much as 25,000 spectators under its 108 meter-diameter roofed dome.

DSC06676As they say, when you open a venue as big as this, you better open it with a bang. Perhaps that was the philosophy of J. Amado Araneta that when the Big Dome first opened its gates in March 16, 1960, it showcased a big boxing match between our very own Gabriel “Flash” Elorde against the then-reigning junior lightweight champion Harold Gomes. The match ended in Round 7 when Elorde, the Pacquiao of the time, knocked out Gomes to win the belt. You can just imagine the howling and cheering heard across the dome when Elorde snared that victory.

Elorde vs. Gomes graced the opening of the “People’s Coliseum” (courtesy of Video48 site)

Since then it has become one of the premiere events venue in the country, whether it’s for a boxing match like Thrilla in Manila or even a venue for professional wrestling matches under WWE’s Raw and Smackdown brands. It has become a popular concert venue that the popularity of an artist is measured by the number of attendees who will go the Big Dome if he/she will hold a concert there. (hence the popular phrase “kayang papunuin ang Araneta”) At times it can be a cockfighting arena, a venue for a religious congregation or even for a company-sponsored event.

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the gallery of the personalities who graced the Big Dome at the General Section entrance at the north (right along Gen. Roxas St. across Gateway Mall)

Then there are the regular events held at the Dome every year such as the Binibining Pilipinas pageant (whose organizer is an in-law of the Aranetas) and the games of the Philippine Basketball Association. It is also a popular venue for a number of collegiate sports events in the UAAP and NCAA. While it is a popular venue for the opening ceremonies as well as for the men’s basketball finals of these 2 collegiate leagues, the UAAP has also made the Big Dome the venue for sold-out events like an Ateneo-La Salle match and the annual Cheerdance Competition.

For many years, it stood in a solitary existence apart from the boom of Cubao in the late 60’s-80’s and its slow decline by the 1990’s. Then in 1999, as part of a long-term bid to reclaim Araneta Center’s status as a premier commercial hub in the metropolis, Araneta Coliseum got a major facelift of sorts. Gone was the white exterior and in comes a more colorful fusion of blue and yellow. The entrances to the coliseum were given a new, color-coded flavor. Restaurants and cafes began to open around the formerly dull Coliseum Circle. The most noticeable aspect of the renovation was that the Big Dome has been finally linked to the rest of Araneta Center, as pedestrian walkways connected it to the Farmers’ Plaza mall and the mass rail network of Line 3 at the east and the newer Gateway Mall and Line 2 at the north.

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line of bars and cafes along Coliseum Circle

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west entrance along Gen. Araneta St. across Farmers Plaza mall

overhead bridgeway connecting to Farmers Plaza

Here’s to 50 more years and beyond for the good ol’ Big Dome!

© The Urban Roamer

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