(29 January 2014, Pasay City, Philippines) The opening of SM Megamall Building D on January 28, 2014 marks the return of the ice skating rink and the birth of speed skating in the Philippines. Such a feat, considered almost impossible in a tropical country, is an affirmation of the vision of SM founder Henry Sy, Sr. who once dreamed that all Filipinos can be given a chance to skate on ice.
SM will be introducing one form of speed skating called short-track speed skating. The traditional form of speed skating is long-track which is set on an Olympic track oval as big as a football field. Short-track speed skating on the other hand is the more popular version since it is done on a regular Olympic size rink measuring 30 x 60 meters.
Raymund Retumban, Division Manager at the Ice Skating Rink Operations of SM said short-track speed skating is very similar to a marathon on ice and is widely popular in other Asian countries like Singapore, Korea and Japan. “SM has stepped up in developing its leisure product offerings by providing state-of-the-art facilities especially in support of the Filipino athlete,” Retumban said. Short-track speed skating will add to SM’s winter sports roster which currently include figure skating and ice hockey.
Manuelito Resultay, Operations Manager at the Ice Skating Rink of SM said that the introduction of speed skating in the Philippines is somewhat “revolutionary”. “Similar to Tatang’s (nickname of Mr. Sy) vision, we want to introduce a unique sport done through an Olympic size rink in a tropical country. I remember Tatang was so happy seeing kids skating in Megamall and the rinks were always full. We want to share that joy and excitement again with everyone,” Resultay said.
For short-track speed skating, Resultay said no special skills are required to join. It is similar to figure skating only with longer skates and uses a race format with 50, 1,000 or 1,500 meter events. “ Initially we would like to tap our ice hockey team for this but eventually we hope to develop new talents,” Resultay said. To ensure that the rink is safe for races, pads will be installed around the rink and cones will be placed to identify boundaries. The rink will also be open to the public for speed skating which will follow the standard rates of P300 on weekdays and P390 on weekends.
Philippine Skating Union (PhSU) president Manuel Veguillas III meanwhile said that in order to further develop speed skating in the Philippines, the organization will be bringing in coaches from South Korea and Japan where the sport is quite advanced. “Part of our jurisdiction at the Philippine Skating Union is to develop skating in the Philippines, not only through figure skating but speed skating as well. In the international arena, they develop both. When we hosted the Asian Skating Union Congress in the Philippines last November 21, 2013, we had a lot of discussions among our international counterparts and generally, everybody wanted to develop speed skating because it hasn’t been developed in our region. There is a lot of potential for short-track and we are happy that SM is supporting this. This is a unique opportunity for the Philippines,” Veguillas said.
Such an opportunity originated from Mr. Sy’s love for ice skating which was discovered during his numerous travels. He later on decided to build the country’s first ice skating rink in SM Megamall in 1992, originally housed at the basement level. In 2006, the ice skating operations were consolidated in SM Mall of Asia (MOA). Today, an even bigger ice skating rink will be the maiden venue for speed skating. To enhance the skating experience, SM made sure that the design of the new skating rink in SM Megamall will be like no other in the world.
Retumban said that the new ice skating rink, which is on the fifth floor of SM Megamall Building D, features a breakthrough in terms of ceiling design in the world. Designed by New York based CAZA, the Olympic size rink will showcase an intricate, grill-type Louver ceiling to facilitate better air flow and will use modern technology and strategically located facilities and function areas. The new skating rink can also accommodate upto about 900 people on the ice. “This is the first ice skating rink to use a different approach on design. The ceiling design is a breakthrough. They (CAZA) made it just for SM, and this has not been done anywhere in the world. The Louver-type design is like a grill and allows the continuous exchange of air in the facility to avoid condensation,” Retumban said.
Retumban also said that the new ice skating rink, which is the second Olympic size skating rink of the SM Group after SM Mall of Asia features an intelligent cooling system that is designed to consume less electricity. “This is the first rink to have its own building management system with a cost effective system of refrigeration. For example, if there are less people on ice, the system will automatically adjust to consume less electricity. If there are a lot of people, it will adjust to optimize the operation. That ultimately means we are not wasting any energy,” Retumban said. He added that this technology is currently being used by SM malls. “During night time, when the mall is closed, the chiller system will not consume so much electricity and will just maintain its optimal level. Electric consumption is about 30% of the expenses of an ice skating rink and with this new technology, we hope to bring down the costs to as much as 15% or even lower,” he added.
As SM continues to develop more innovative ice skating rinks in the country, ice experts are also seeing growing interest from the Filipino youth in winter sports. Over the last five to seven years, Veguillas has seen the steady acceptance of ice skating with SM’s continued efforts to bring winter sports closer to Filipinos. “Before, Filipinos were interested in ice skating but they just merely watched. It was something alien to the Philippines being a tropical nation and all. Ganoon sila dati (They were like that before). But SM continued to bring it closer to the people by putting up more than one ice skating rink. Dahan-dahan (slowly), people were starting to say, puede na tayo diyan (we can do this too). Ngayon, ang dami na gusto mag-skate (today, there are many Filipinos who want to skate). The presence of skating coaches and trainings also helped in convincing them to be more serious about skating. This all started with Tatang’s vision,” Veguillas said.
PhSU organizes the national figure skating competitions to promote the sport and to select future competitors who will represent the Philippines in reputable international events. Through the years, PhSU with the support of SM have conducted several figure skating competitions that give birth to international champions. One such champion is Michael Martinez who will be competing in the Olympic winter games in Russia from February 4-17 in the figure skating category. The excellence demonstrated by skaters especially during competitions is a mark of quality that the SM Ice Skating Rink can provide with its world class venue and facilities.
“This is why Tatang is a cut above the rest. I could never imagine what he has done. He dreamed of bringing figure skating to the Philippines that eventually produced the first Filipino to compete in the winter games. He is truly a visionary,” Veguillas added.
And in a country where summer heat can melt a popsicle in seconds, Filipinos once could only dream in participating in sports that require a pond or a lake of ice – neither of which the Philippines ever had. But because Sy and SM dared to dream in the impossible and continued to follow the dream by developing ice skating rinks in the Philippines, Filipinos can now hope to blaze even faster on ice and make their mark in the global arena.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Corazon P. Guidote
Senior Vice President for Investor Relations
SM Investments Corporation
Tel. No. 857-0117
Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2014