FOR the first time in its one-year history, the Gatorade Hoops Center has been forced to implement a ticketing policy for PBA preseason games after hundreds of fans tried to enter the training facility for a tuneup match pitting Barangay Ginebra against Air21.
Gym owner Franz Pumaren, who is also Air21 coach, said the tickets will be issued for free and are aimed primarily at controlling the entry of fans amid unprecedented interest for the pro league's preseason games.
In last Friday’s tune-up between Ginebra and Pumaren’s Express squad, close to 500 fans tried to get inside the state-of-the-art training facility, which can only accommodate a maximum 150 spectators.
“Yes, first time namin na mag-implement ng ticketing. Kasi kailangan namin ng crowd control,” said Pumaren, who will split the 100 free tickets between the fans of the competing teams.
“Yung spectator side lang kasi talaga ang pwede namin pa-occupy sa fans kasi yung kabilang side, for players and teams’ family members and friends na yun,” said the former PBA star point guard.
The policy will be implemented in the preseason game between Ginebra and Alaska at 1 p.m. on Tuesday as well as in Barako Bull’s tune-up game against Rain or Shine at 10 a.m.
“People should realize na kahit sa movie houses or even sa Araneta (Coliseum), may certain number lang ang pwedeng pumasok,” said Pumaren.
“Saka mahigpit rin kasi ang city hall of Mandaluyong sa occupancy requirement. Hindi kami pwedeng mag exceed sa maximum allowable, kasi pag may nangyari … kailangan kontrolado ang tao sa loob,” said Pumaren, who has also requested for additional security personnel.
Hoops Center officials did not deny having headaches trying to control the crowd that came to watch the Ginebra-Air 21 tune-up game.
“Oho, andami pong pasaway. Sa kagustuhan nga po nilang pumasok, sinira pa nga po nila emergency exit,” said Rose Somodio, Hoops Center information officer.
“Saka bago po namin sila pinapasok, sinabihan namin sila na kailangang lumabas agad dahil susunod agad yung Barako Bull at Alaska na maglalaro… kaso natapos yung game… ayaw nila umalis,” she said of the fans who stayed around to get autographs and pictures of Ginebra players.
Still, Pumaren said the high interest for preseason games augurs well for another blockbuster year for the league.
“Grabe, hindi naman dati ganito katindi ang anticipation ng fans. Kasi tune-up pa lang ito. Normally kami-kami lang yan eh,” said Pumaren. "It's a sign that the league is again growing!"
“Sana hindi nila ma-misunderstood. But we just want to put things in order,” added Pumaren, who will also welcome popular UFC star Mark Munoz to the Gatorade Hoops Center on November 24.