Lim: Sports bubble and a new football stadium in Cebu

Sports Tourism Highlights

Creating a sports bubble is indeed a herculean task with a main cast of players, trainers and games officials supported by a cast of hundreds, if not thousands, from janitors to waiters; from room boys to chefs; from coach drivers to security guards; from nurses to receptionists; from venue crew to scoreboard operators, and that’s not all.

Somehow I was privy to the arrangements made for the PBA bubble in Clark last November and December as we were right in the midst of preparation for the 4th Sports Tourism Awards also held in Clark on Dec. 10, 2020.

The synergy was so intense with the Clark Development Corp., the Bases and Conversion Development Corp., the PBA commissioners, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas on one hand and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) on the other. On top of this, Heaven received our prayers non-stop for over two weeks from players, officials, hotel, venue and auxiliary staff, all 10-fold with family members on bended knees.

A huge bubble was created within the Quest Hotel compound spreading to the Mimosa Golf Course and a tinier one at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Center. All hotel and venue staff had to be tested negative and banned from straying outside the bubble for the entire duration of the tournament. The PBA bubble had no live audience.

The recently concluded Australian Open in Melbourne was another event that followed the same protocols. Although the Victorian State Government allowed up to 30,000 spectators a day, it had to suspend live audiences for up to four days when an unrelated tournament Covid-19 case was reported in the state.

Both champions, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka, exclaimed the live audiences incredibly made a lot of impact in their performances, spurring them on to their respective victories; 7,500 fans are still 7,500 fans for one grand slam.

The January Super Bowl recorded 25,000 spectators, just one third of the capacity of the Tampa Stadium. When will we be allowed to watch live sports events in the Philippines?

The IATF and the GAB are taking a very careful approach on live audiences, and who can really blame them. Most health care systems in third world countries sadly cannot and will not allow live audiences for sports events at this point. However, the tourism sector has opened up to allow meetings and conferences in hotels and convention centers up to 50 percent of the capacity. This spells pure ecstasy to some.

Bubble venues are hard to come by in our present-day situation. Standing out like a sore thumb is the Rizal Memorial Stadium Complex located, probably in the most densely populated area in Manila. Sadly, our Cebu City Sports Center and the Cebu Coliseum are no better in terms of location, traffic, parking, aesthetics and proper crowd control. These stadiums will be difficult options to be considered for viable bubble venues under present conditions.

In my column several weeks ago, I ventured to mention the need for sports venues, well defined, better planned and well spread out across the Cebu Metropolis. The government may continue to build hoopla domes for basketball games and local government unit gatherings with no undertaking to build a track and field or football stadium.

I have urged corporate giants like SM to give Cebu a MOA Arena at the SM Seaside or Smart for a Smart Coliseum ala Cubao. Aside from sporting encounters, concerts, cultural, social events and huge conventions such as Rotary, Lions, JCI and others can also be held in large capacity venues for economic viability, rendering affordable ticket pricing.

Over a year ago, my friend Ugur Tasci proudly showed me and a few of our media friends his investment in a FIFA sanctioned all-weather astro turf football field which he personally funded. Ugur, a Turkish national, first arrived in the Philippines in 1994, and together with his brother, Cem developed the Leylam Football Club that brought honors to Cebu in football tournaments here locally and abroad.

The football stadium is almost complete as of today. Covid-19 earlier halted and then delayed the finishing of Phase 1 of the Dynamic Herb Sports Complex located in the South Road Properties. The astro turf is in great shape, the grandstand and locker rooms completed and the light towers are all in place. In all, Ugur has invested almost P100 million on this football stadium.

The economic slowdown will see a further delay of proper seats being installed, lights for night games, LED giant screen and an electronic scoreboard. This is when corporate sponsors come in. With a little support that could run for years, they could engage in naming rights, brand lockouts, and numerous versions of corporate sponsorships.

Ugur also revealed that this stadium will now be the home of Cebu United FC, a professional team under his football empire to be fully based in Cebu. We now look forward to the next Philippine Football League when Cebu will have a pro team in AFC and FIFA sanctioned tournaments.

Come on, lads, this is what we have been missing the last few years after the chapter of Global FC, but first, let’s help Ugur and Cem complete the home we all need. This swanky new stadium could easily qualify as a sports bubble venue if we still need one in the future.


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