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SEAG cage venue at San Juan gym?

2016FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena. (Wikimedia Commons)

2016FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Nick Giongco

Basketball in the 30th Southeast Asian Games won’t be played within the hallowed grounds of the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Nor it would be contested at the Mall of Asia Arena, on whose sacred floor five years ago the national team scored a spellbinding victory over Korea in the FIBA Asia Championships.

Instead, the Phisgoc (Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee) has identified an alternate venue that doesn’t have a rich tradition of hoops.

The Fil-Oil Flying V The Arena in San Juan, which has a mere seating capacity of 5,500, has been tabbed as the home of basketball during the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 SEAG.

Phisgoc co-chairman Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara told the Bulletin that efforts to reserve the 16,000-seater Smart-Araneta or the MOA in Pasay City that can host 20,000 proved unsuccessful.
“We did our best to reserve them but we were just given a number of days to use it,” said Suzara, noting that the Big Dome offered
to host basketball for four days while the MOA also mentioned about the same number.

“The problem is that basketball will be played for one full week so we cannot hold the games there and transfer to another venue,” said Suzara, stressing that up until January, “we were still trying our best.”

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) expressed disappointment over the choice of The Arena as venue with SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios lamenting the fact that the country’s premier spectator sport wound up being played in a second-rate venue.

“The fans will come in droves especially if the PBA decides to send its players (to compete),” said Barrios.

The SBP theorized that the Phisgoc may have overlooked the reservation procedure by checking on the Big Dome and MOA Arena’s availability “a bit too late.”

“I think that they should have inquired much earlier,” said Barrios.

Suzara said the Smart-Araneta Coliseum and the MOA Arena are hosting concerts featuring big-named artists during the SEAG, making it hard for the two high-profile venues to postpone or scrap them altogether.

The Phisgoc said that the Cuneta Astrodome, which can accommodate 12,000, was not even considered as facilities there are no longer up to international standards.

The 10,000 capacity Philsports Arena in Pasig was also mentioned but it has been reserved for another sport that will be played in the SEAG.

“I just hope that the Phisgoc will find a way (to remedy this matter),” said Barrios.

With the clock ticking fast, the Phisgoc is running out of time.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), meanwhile, is offering the soon-to-be-upgraded Ninoy Aquino Stadium inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex as an alternative to The Arena, which has become known as the house of volleyball.

“Instead of playing at FilOil, Ninoy Aquino is more attractive since it’s going to be refurbished,” said PSC chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez.

The NAS is the same size as The Arena but has a storied basketball past compared to the San Juan venue.

“The NAS will have its seats replaced and it will be installed with new air conditioning units,” said PSC Deputy Executive Director Guillermo Iroy.