The PBA is set to hold its own bubble at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Pampanga for the resumption of its 45th season interrupted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The team decided to take the offer of Clark,” said league chairman Ricky Vargas in a Zoom press conference Thursday, moments after the board of governors met to finalize the plans for the season restart.
Last Friday, Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) chief executive officer Vince Dizon and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) president Noel Manankil presented to the board a proposal for Clark.
NLEX Road Warriors head coach and former Pampanga vice governor Yeng Guiao, as well as current Pampanga governor Dennis “Delta” Pineda have earlier vouched for Clark to be the bubble venue of the PBA.
“We looked at all those who are interested to host the PBA and we thought it was the one who has a more complete offering from a safety standpoint, particularly from the protocol, from the nearness to hospitals, and the ability to take care of the mental health of the players while in the bubble,” said Vargas, as 20 entities submitted proposals to the league.
Players, coaches, league officials, staff, and selected media members will be housed at the Quest Hotel. Games are to be held at the Angeles University Foundation Gym, which has hosted PBA games in the past.
“One of the locations for practices would be a makeshift tent. The main game would probably be at the Angeles University Gym which is fully air-conditioned,” said Vargas as travel time from Clark to AUF is 10 minutes.
“Remember, that was also used during the Southeast Asian Games. So that’s refurbished. Each team will have a dedicated bus that will bring them in and out,” added the TNT governor.
Pending approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force, the PBA plans to go to the bubble by Sept. 27 and start scrimmages to better prepare for the Oct. 9 start of the compressed season expected to end by the second week of December.
“If everything pushes through by September 26, we should be able to proceed to our bubble area and start the scrimmages by the 27th, and the games by the 9th of October,” Vargas said.
As far as testing is concerned, the league will abide by the protocols of the Department of Health, according to Marcial. Everyone inside the bubble is not allowed to leave anymore.
“One thing about Clark is they have very strict protocols by themselves and they can do actual testing. They do have hospitals, and they do have a laboratory there,” said Vargas.