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PBA cleared for Smart Araneta Coliseum return

San Miguel and Magnolia were the last two teams to collide at the Smart Araneta Coliseum before the COVID-19 lockdowns have been imposed. PBA Images (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--The long wait is over: the PBA is coming home again.

Commissioner Willie Marcial announced on Friday night that the Governors' Cup games for the rest of December will take place at the league's longtime main battleground, the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Marcial bared to reporters present onsite at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and online through Zoom that the Quezon City government notified the PBA of the approval for holding the games at the fabled arena earlier in the day.

"Kaka-tanggap lang namin ng sulat from Quezon City--kay Mayor Joy Belmonte--na pinapayagan na tayong maglaro sa Quezon City," Marcial said.

He also confirmed that the league has been approved for a Pasay return as well on Tuesday with the Mall of Asia Arena likely hosting the matches.

The MOA Arena, however, will be hosting the MPBL Invitational starting on Saturday, which means the PBA might only get to hold games at the said venue by January.

"Maraming salamat po kay Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano, Mayor Joy Belmonte at Mr. Miguel Belmonte sa mga tulong niyo," Marcial said in thanksgiving to the city leaders.

He then announced the good news that fans would be allowed to watch the games live at "The Big Dome", marking the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic that the said venue will be opening its doors to paying patrons.

The Smart Araneta Coliseum has actually hosted some events amid the pandemic, the most recent being a concert of the popular band Ben & Ben, but those events were held behind closed doors as part of the health and safety protocols and were only made available for the public through televised broadcasts and live streaming.

"By Wednesday, maglalaro na tayo sa Araneta kasama ang mga fans," Marcial further said.

However, he stressed that fans should be fully vaccinated and added that they also need to bring a government-issued identification card for contact tracing purposes.

The Smart Araneta Coliseum, which has become the PBA's home ever since it was founded in 1975 although it only got to return there for good during the mid-'90s after a full decade of fully playing at either the PhilSports Arena in Pasig or the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay, last hosted a game on March 8, 2020, when San Miguel romped Magnolia, 94-78, to open the 45th season.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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