Watching Football at the Emperador Stadium, January 16, 2014

After almost a year, I was able to watch another United Football League (UFL) game live at the Emperador Stadium on Thursday, January 16, 2014. The games on hand were between Philippine Army – General Trias FC and Team Socceroo FC, and then between Green Archers United FC and PSG FC. Here are my experience and observations on how it was like.

‘Getting There’
The first pleasant surprise I got when I reached McKinley Hill was the number of signs pointing to the Emperador Stadium. As soon as you start going down the Upper McKinley Road (the main road in the area), you immediately see a series of signs pointing to where the Emperador Stadium is. This is a sharp contrast to my previous experience last year wherein there were NO signs at all indicating the location of the stadium. So now even if it is your first time to go there, it is as easy as pie, just use your eyes to look for the signs, they are there, and follow the directions.

If I remember it right there are probably at least eight signs from the main road all the way to the stadium. I think if it were possible to lay bread crumbs along the road they probably would have, but these signs nevertheless do a FANTASTIC job of leading first timers to where the stadium us. Here is a sample of one of those signs:
Sign to Emperador

I went there by Taxi, not sure if there are still any public transportation available there as I didn’t see any, nor did I look for one. But Taxis are a dime a dozen there, there are everywhere like flies on a garbage dump site, you literally had to shoo them away from you. Worst comes to worst, if there are really no public transport there you can try going to the nearby VENICE PIAZZA mall area, or take a Taxi and go to the nearby “Market-Market”, which is a public transportation hub.

There is a Parking Area now beside the stadium, but I noticed that it was almost full even if there weren’t that many people watching the game, hence I assume it was being used by people working in the nearby buildings, so on a big game with a lot of fans watching, I don’t think you will have a place to park your car. Your best bet would be to park it at the nearby Venice Piazza Mall, and then just walk to the stadium.
Parking Lot

Road entrance to the stadium is now regulated by a guard manning a rope barricade, just tell him you are watching the game and you shouldn’t have any problem.

‘Entrance and Bleachers’
Last year entrance to the UFL games was free, you just walk right in, but not this time around. Its not really a bad thing, fans can support the league by paying to watch the games, which is reasonably priced at P50 for the Open and Covered Bleachers, and P100 for the Covered Grandstand. The tickets are a “Day Pass”, allowing you to watch all the games for the day. There are two entrances, both manned by Guards, and you can buy the ticket at the main entrance, the one nearest to the main road. Here is a sample of a UFL Ticket:
Day Ticket

There are numerous changes to the stadium compared to when I first went there around 11 months ago, first is the fact that the main Bleacher area is now covered with a beautiful but at the same time functional canopy, keeping the audience away from rain and sun.
Bleacher Canopy

There is now a “open” or uncovered Bleacher area behind one of the goals. This is where the teams for the next game now stay, a huge improvement compared to before when the players for the next game have to share the same bleacher as the fans. This bleacher is different from the main one because of the wide leg room, giving the players more space to put their stuff around and move about. It seems to be really designed as a Player’s Area.
Open Bleachers

‘Covered Grandstand’
The biggest difference is of course the covered grandstand. Access to the grandstand is on one side only, on the right side if you are facing it. If you are entering via the main entrance, in order to reach the grandstand you will have to walk in front of the two bleachers, which is a bit of a long walk, not that I mind (too much).
Covered Grandstand

The grandstand is open seating, so you get to choose where you want to sit. The seats themselves are FANTASTIC, they are made of plastic yet THICK and ERGONOMIC. These plastic seats are WAY better than the ones I have used in the Rizal Memorial Stadium (RMS) Grandstand, for example, or even the thin, almost flimsy ones at the San Juan Arena. I spent at least 3 1/2 hours sitting on them, and they were very comfortable.
Grandstand Seat

I also liked the wide legrooms, which was my main complaint of the seats at the RMS grandstand seats, their legrooms were tiny thus leaving your legs a bit cramped after a couple of hours. The wide legroom together with the excellent seats are very conducive to comfortable seating when watching the games for hours on end.
Grandstand Legroom

There is now also a good Public Address system, so now you have a better idea on what is happening in the game like how much time is left for injury time, or who is coming in or who is coming out during substitutions. I think they should be mount those speakers on an elevated platform, though, as I pity the people sitting in front of them when an announcement is made.
Speaker

The grandstand doesn’t put you as near to the pitch as you would if you were sitting on the bleachers, but is actually a bit better because you have a better angle of all of the action.
Lower Grandstand View

And if you are sitting on the topmost part of the grandstand, you get that “gameboard” feel of the pitch, like you are playing on a board game with the pitch as the game board. I would describe it as sort of like a “God-like” view, which is nice.
Upper Grandstand View

You don’t get to smell that whiff of rubber infill when you are in the grandstand, unlike if you were in the bleachers, which may or may not be a good thing, depending if you like that smell or not.

‘Food and Rest Rooms’
Unlike last year when there was a McDonald’s kiosk with their inefficient service, nowadays there are NO concession stands anymore in the stadium. HOWEVER, you can bring food and drinks into the stadium, and there are establishments NEARBY where you can buy food from, mainly the SCIENCE HUB 2 Building complex. There you have a couple of options, from the more expensive “Starbucks” outlet, or if you are on a budget there is the nearby “Family Mart”. There is also a Milkshake and one other kiosk in the area, so replenishment is not really a problem, in fact now you have a couple more choices and the area is not too far off.

As a Football fan, you might want to drop by the “Azkals Cafe” which is owned by Dan Palami. Food is pretty good, though a bit pricey at around P160 for their Fish Fillet Burger with Fries.
Azkals Cafe

Eating there would be another way for a fan to support local Football. Plus you get to see Stephan Schrock’s jersey mounted on the wall, which actually looked SMALL, looks like 2 sizes below mine. But I wouldn’t mess around with that guy with those abs.
Schrock Jersey

Whereas before the fans had to make do with dark, smelly Portalets, now the Comfort Rooms are finished and they actually look POSH, about the same type you would see in middle-class hotels or malls. My only concern is that there is only ONE area shared by the players and fans, and I imagine that during full game days there would be a long line of people trying to use these toilets. A good alternative for rest rooms would be the restaurants on the Science Hub 2 complex.
Posh Toilet

‘Parting Shot’
I came away very impressed and happy at all the improvements I have seen in the Emperador Stadium after 11 months. It has become an excellent stadium for fans to watch the games as compared to before, it is NEW and the overall design is very CONTEMPORARY. Add to the fact that the seating area in the grandstand is very ergonomically comfortable.

The only thing lacking now is an electronic scoreboard which AT THE VERY LEAST will tell the fans the score and the remaining time. Scoring as it is now is done via banners on a solid background which are changed manually.

Football really is a lot more entertaining to watch live, you see every push and shove, every battle for the ball. You see the the drama on the pitch when players start to play act and the opposing player yells at them to get up. And you also see some drama off the pitch like in the grandstand, when a high team official of one team refused to shake hands with a high team official of the opposing team. Very unsportsmanlike, he was probably pissed off his team still couldn’t pull off a win despite having a big sponsor. Credit the other team official for simply smiling and shaking it off.

Anyway, for Football fans, do drop by and watch the games live at “The Empy” when you have time, it is well worth it if you love Football …

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