Players, coaches excited to welcome back PBA fans

Published December 12, 2021, 11:10 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone (PBA Images)

PBA players and coaches are looking forward to having fans back when action in the Governors’ Cup shifts to the Smart Araneta Coliseum starting Wednesday, Dec. 15.

The league had to start its season-ending conference under a closed-circuit format at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, but it was only a few days ago that the Quezon City government gave its approval for the Big Dome to host the games under a limited capacity.

That would surely be a huge boost for every team as they had spent the pandemic playing without the roar of the crowd.

“It’s been a long while. We’re all excited about having fans in the stands,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, whose team is scheduled to play at the Big Dome on Friday against NorthPort.

“I remember watching the NBA, Major League Baseball, and football when they first started coming back in the United States, their stadiums were like half full or whatever. But still, you could see the whole level of play go up to another level from the time in the bubble.

“And I think you’ll see that,” he continued. “I think the level of play will go up. Doesn’t matter how many fans are there, it’s gonna go up. Because that’s what we play for.”

About 3,000 to 4,000 fans will be allowed entry into the Big Dome for the rest of the year, which includes a planned game or two on Christmas Day.

In fact, the league slashed its ticket prices, ranging from nearest seats pegged at P375 and the farthest charged at P70.

Araneta hosted the last time a PBA game was held before fans when the league opened its 45th season in March 2020 with a San Miguel-Magnolia match.

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced a stoppage of seven months before the season, the Philippine Cup being the lone conference, being completed under a bubble setup in Clark.

Earlier this year, the Philippine Cup played two weeks at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City then stopped for a month due to a rise of Covid cases.

A move to Bacolor, Pampanga enabled the PBA to finish the first conference in late-October.

While the games remained competitive, it was obvious that the atmosphere wasn’t the same.

“Siyempre pag may fans, more extra energy yun para sa mga players,” said San Miguel’s CJ Perez, who will now get a chance to play in front of Beermen supporters for the first time since being dealt from the Terrafirma Dyip last January.

“Nagpapasalamat kami sa lahat ng gumawa ng paraan para magkaroon ng fans. Siyempre, sobrang na-miss namin na maglaro nang may fans talaga.”