NBA's Toronto Raptors To Begin 2020-21 Season At Amalie Arena In Tampa
The move was made after the team was denied a request to the Canadian government to open the season in Toronto, as coronavirus cases rise in Canada.
The NBA is coming to Tampa, at least temporarily.
In a statement released Friday, Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri said the team will open its 2020-21 season at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
The announcement came after the Canadian government denied a request by the team to open its season in Toronto due to rising coronavirus cases in the country.
“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena,” the statement read. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current health public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.”
An official familiar with the federal government’s decision told The Associated Press on Friday there is too much COVID-19 circulating in the United States to allow for cross-border travel that is not essential.
The official told AP there’s a chance that at some point next year the decision could be reviewed.
It was not immediately known whether fans would be permitted inside Amalie Arena to watch the games.
The Raptors finished second in the Eastern Conference in 2019-20 with a 53-19 record. They lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the conference finals.
This marks the second major organization to announce plans to at least temporarily relocate its events to the greater Tampa Bay region.
On Thursday, World Wrestling Entertainment announced it would move its “Monday Night Raw” and “Smackdown” prime-time TV shows to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg starting Dec. 11.
Since August, those broadcasts - as well as pay-per-view events - have been held from an interactive set at the Amway Center in Orlando.
An end date has not been announced, but it's expected to coincide with the upcoming Rays baseball season.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.