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As a highly-urbanized city, known as the 87th fastest growing city in the world and FDi magazine’s 10th “Asian City of the Future”, Davao City and its people has long envisaged for a large, grand civic center, a coliseum or indoor sports complex that could accommodate a large number of people. There were already facilities built around the city a couple of years back but could only hold 3,000 to 4,000 spectators.

Dr. Perfecto A. Alibin, when he was still the dean of the College of Education of the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP), dreamed for a spacious structure that would be at par with large multipurpose centers across the archipelago and even abroad. He held that vision for a long time, regrettably, the request for the budget was not granted.

Dr. Alibin’s persistence to eventually make this dream of building a gymnasium for USeP and Davao City became a reality when he took the seat of presidency in 2007. As a visionary and strategic leader, President Alibin took the first step of faith by soliciting the assistance from Hon. Prospero Nograles, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, to include in the budget of the University a gymnasium and cultural center. The kind-hearted legislator, who shares the same desire to put-up a facility that would attract huge national and even international gatherings, immediately instructed the USeP President to draft a letter requesting the amount for the proposed construction of USeP’s sports dome and cultural center. Months after, Dr. Perfecto Alibin got a nod from Speaker Nograles supporting the creation of Davao’s first edifice that can have enough space for bigger events and more clienteles. The amount of Php 60,000,000.00 was, then, approved per General Appropriations Act 2009 in May 2009 as seed fund for the First Phase of construction of a gym with 8,000 seating capacity, which included the superstructure and substructure namely the building’s foundation, earthworks, installation of the peripheral columns, roof beams, roof framing, roofing sheets, concrete gutter, and steel louvers.

Five months after, another Php 30,000,000.00 was issued through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the second phase of work which included the ground floor slabs, bleacher girders and tread slabs, mezzanine girders, plumbing, fire hydrant, storm drainage, septic vault, masonry works, and steel catwalk. The comfort rooms and commercial spaces were likewise built in this phase of construction. Phase 3 succeeded in February 2010 with another 30 million budget issued to DPWH. This phase included lighting and electrical works, partial air conditioning, bleacher steel beam, interior plastering, installation of steel railings and stairs, steel windows and doors, main entrance glass doors, polycarbonate cladding, and wooden and phenolic doors. In August 2011, when Atty. Karlo Alexei Nograles took over as Representative of the First Congressional District of Davao, the construction continued. Through his steadfastness in securing national funds, another Php 10,000,000.00 was issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for Phase 4 per GAA 2011. This phase which was implemented by the University included the gym basketball maple, wood floor and glass goals, additional RC slab, roof exhaust fans, and termite soil poisoning. In April of the same year, another Php 5,000,000.00 was issued and handled by DPWH for exterior plastering and painting, and making of the comfort rooms for Phase 5. In November 2011, phase 6, with a budget of 5 million, was pushed through because of the financial assistance of Senator Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero, made possible through the strong lobby from the young Nograles, as the latter persists in seeking further support from other members of the House of Representatives and from other public officials. Then in December 2011, assistance came from the Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party list, which also earmarked Php 5,000,000.00 for the collapsible bleachers. Overall, since May 2009 to date, a total of 145 million pesos has been spent for the construction of the gymnasium.

For fiscal year 2013, Cong. Karlo Alexei Nograles has promised to continue his support for the completion of the gym and sports centre by allocating another Php 44,000,000.00 for the face-lift of roads adjacent to the university, particularly Porras and Loyola streets, as well as, the improvement of the drainage systems.

The construction has gone through teething troubles, specifically budgetary problems and even setbacks brought along with the protracted processing of documents. It has even surpassed the scrutiny of different individuals who claimed the project as a conspicuous failed venture. But all those hitches did not impede the university’s administration and the helpful external parties to continue upholding their dream of having the city’s first large and modern sporting facility, that will benchmark the city’s capacity to organize sport events, concerts, conventions, and other large scale activities bringing the banner of the most progressive locality in the south, and would likewise provide additional revenues for the university, income and livelihood for some constituents, as well as sustain funds for the scholarship of countless poor but deserving students. In fact, after its historical groundbreaking on October 1, 2009 and actual construction in January, 2010, the USeP Sports and Cultural Center emerges amidst all critiques and now opens its doors to a sundry of opportunities while still anchored on the vision of providing decent venues for any significant events and earning revenues for future programs of the University of Southeastern Philippines.

The reverie of the city and the university’s first modern sporting facility was truly a lofty vision. But dreams without a vision would bear no fruit. USeP Sports and Cultural Center that we see today is, hence, the result of a vision, unified goals, determination, collective efforts, and constant pursuit for excellence and continuous growth. From this day on, one need not go to Metro Manila or elsewhere just to witness concerts of local and foreign artists. Henceforth, Davaoeños can take pride that it has a facility that follows the standards of the International Basketball Federation that means that the PBA and NBA games are just within reach. From this day on, Davaoeños can expect to watch great, in this facility, Filipino boxing champs fight and defend for the country’s glory. And from this day on, we would all remember the day when the dream became a reality — a day USeP and the rest of the Davaoeños will all look back ten, twenty, or maybe fifty years from now. (Ms. Irish Mae Fernandez)

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