By TITO S. TALAO
ROME — The Philippine Basketball Association’s ambitious plan to build its own venue, a project that could cost a billion, has been gathering dust far back in the burner but apparently continues to dwell in the mind of Chairman Ricky Vargas.
A search committee was formed years ago to pinpoint a suitable location for a possible lease or buy deal with the lot’s owner, but initial steps encountered immediate hurdles and the plan never left the ground and had been shelved since.
Vargas, governor of TNT KaTropa, brought the idea back to light during the PBA board’s program and planning session at the Rosa Grand Hotel in Milan Thursday when he went through expenses incurred by the league last year and expected revenues from the coming 45th season.
“Sixty million pesos for venue rental alone, that’s the problem,” Vargas said. “Maybe it’s really about time we build our own coliseum.”
Quickly, however, Vargas made it clear the project isn’t being resurrected or that there are plans to do so.”
Still he left the door slightly open.
“The problem is the property,” he said. “If we can find someone who will donate a lot…the construction naman kasi can be loaned from the banks.”
Vargas, meantime, said the PBA is looking at a projected P620 million revenue — a 33 percent increase — during the 45th season from raised broadcast rights fees, sponsorships from Excite, the league’s marketing arm, TV 5 and the 12 ballclubs, and earnings from a more aggressive digital and social media campaign.
International TV rights are also being negotiated by PBA commissioner Willie Marcial and his staff for added earnings, Vargas said.
“The PBA is in good financial health, and we’re looking to another fruitful season. If we do this right, 2020 will be a good year,” he said, adding that out-of-the-country games are being planned in Dubai, Riyadh and the United States.
Marcial has just been reappointed to a fresh three-year term with a full year left in his current contract, allowing to run the ship until 2023.
The league’s 10th commissioner announced that the inaugural game for the 45th season on March 1 will be between San Miguel Beer, the reigning 5-time Philippine Cup champion, and the Magnolia Hotshots at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Preceding the SMB-Magnolia matchup will be the Leo Awards, where SMB’s June Mar Fajardo hopes to fend off NorthPort’s Christian Standhardinger, TNT’s Jayson Castro and Columbian Dyip rookie CJ Perez in his bid to win a sixth straight Most Valuable Player trophy.
Highlighting the opening ceremonies will be a special tribute for the late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a frequent visitor in the country and the PBA.
“Kobe has touched and inspired each one of us,” said Vargas.