MANILA - The Philippines on Monday officially opened a recently built indoor arena that is said to be the largest in the world.
The Philippine Arena, boasting a seating capacity of 55,000, was built by the religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo to serve as the major venue for international events and entertainment, as well as for the group's place of worship.
Construction took nearly three years and costs more than 9 billion pesos (205 million USD). It can also hold an additional 50,000 people outside the stadium plaza for major events, the sect said.
President Benigno Aquino III led the inauguration ceremony in Bulacan province, south of Manila, and lauded its construction. Thousands of followers, including several politicians, also attended the ceremony.
The fifteen storey stadium, with a total building area of 36,000 square meters, was built as the centerpiece for the sect's 75 hectare tourism enterprise zone development project in Bulacan province, south of Manila, in time for its 100th founding anniversary.
"Thus it is our hope that the Ciudad De Victoria (City of Victory) will emerge, not only as an important sport and cultural hub, but as a major one-stop multipurpose complex in the country," Iglesia ni Cristo General Evangelist Bienvenido Santiago said.
"For this reason, although the use of these facilities is open to the public, however, the Iglesio Ni Christo [Church of Christ] reserves the right to determine what events and activities will be held here based on the wholesome, Christian principles and values that the Church upholds," he added.
The Iglesia ni Cristo has strong political influence in the Philippines, mostly due to its members voting as a bloc whoever their leaders select during the elections.