The last time I went inside Araneta Coliseum was when I got to watch Jars of Clay’s concert back in March 2005. And I can’t remember the first time I got inside The Big Dome; I was likely a kid back then.
Anyway, did you know that the Araneta Coliseum is the largest clear-spanning dome in Southeast Asia at 108 meters? That is according to this list of the world’s largest domes. Built by the Araneta Family and opened in 1960, The Big Dome was given the recognition of being the “biggest covered coliseum in the world.” (The title has long since been surpassed by other domes.) The coliseum has a comfortable seating capacity of 22,000, and covers a land area of almost 4 hectares.
Photo by Harvey Pascua.
Most people know of the Araneta Coliseum as the grand event venue for concerts, TV specials, and sports events like boxing and especially basketball for this basketball-crazy nation; the coliseum regularly hosts basketball games for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). But the most well-known event to occur in The Big Dome is arguably the Thrilla in Manila, the final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Ali won that match and in his honor, the Ali Mall shopping center next door was named after him. (Bet you didn’t know that, did you?)
The Araneta Coliseum is the centerpiece attraction of the larger Araneta Center, a mixed-used business-commercial district and transportation hub that is seeing revival in recent years after wallowing in seedy reputations for two decades. The Gateway Mall (seen under construction in Google Maps just to the north of the dome), a high-end shopping mall was opened in 2004. The Manhattan Garden City (what a cheesy name), a set of high-rise condominiums, is also set to be constructed in Araneta Center. The coliseum itself underwent a 200-plus-million-peso renovation at the turn of the century and it’s exterior adjacent to the Gateway Mall is now a classy al fresco dining area.