The city of Tampa will be hosting the Toronto Raptors of the NBA for the foreseeable future.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Canadian government has closed down travel across the border unless you quarantine for 14 days.
That doesn’t work for a sports team, so as a result, the Raptors will call Tampa home the first half of the NBA season.
The NBA will be releasing the first half of the 72-game schedule any day now. The second half of the schedule will be released sometime in January.
At that time, the Canadian government will reassess the COVID situation and could relax the travel restrictions.
Tampa competed with Nashville, TN, Newark, NJ, and Kansas City, Missouri, to temporarily host the Raptors.
The Raptors were also in talks with the city of Sunrise, FL, and had worked out an agreement with the NHL’s Florida Panthers to share their practice facility.
The Raptors players voted, and Tampa was the first choice of a temporary home.
Raptors guard, Fred Van Fleet, is happy to be in Tampa. “I think it’s less of a sting because we haven’t played in front of fans in so long, but also once we knew that Toronto was up in the air as far as us being able to return, I was just happy that it was somewhere warm. So Tampa is right there and, and hopefully, we’ll spend our time there and do what we got to do and then make our way back to Toronto at some point.”
Some NBA teams will open with no fans in the stands. In Florida, stadiums have been allowing up to 20 percent capacity for football games.
The Raptors will play their home game at Amalie Arena, which houses the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and could play in front of 5,000 fans.
Tampa has hosted NCAA regional tournaments and the NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor welcomed the Raptors to Tampa in an official statement. “The Toronto Raptors and their fans will not be disappointed here in Tampa Bay. Not only do we have the Stanley Cup Champion Lightning, the World Series runner-up Rays, and the powerhouse Buccaneers, we’re going to have a chance to watch the magic of the Toronto Raptors play right here in our backyard. And although things may look a bit different this season, we look forward to cheering for you throughout the season. Welcome to the Sunshine State!”
The Canadian government also forced the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball to play their home games a few hours south in Buffalo, New York, all due to COVID-19.
The NBA fan in Tampa may be out of luck if they want to watch a Raptors game on TV or listen to the radio broadcast.
The Orlando Magic own the NBA territorial rights to Tampa Bay. That means a deal will have to be worked out with the Magic to allow Raptors games in the Tampa market on television and radio.
Training camp will open December 1, with the regular season beginning on December 22.