12:53pm: The Raptors will play their home games at Amalie Arena, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (via Twitter). That’s the home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
12:03pm: The Raptors‘ plan to start the 2020/21 season at their home arena was rejected today by the Canadian government, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As a result the team will play its home games in Tampa, team president Masai Ujiri announced.
“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020/21 season in Tampa, Florida,” Ujiri said in a statement. “We want to thank all levels of government, and their public health officials, for their dedication to this process and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to playing in Toronto.”
The Raptors considered several cities, but Tampa was the most popular choice among players, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Management took that into consideration and it affected the final decision.
Canada has imposed restrictions limiting travel from the U.S. to guard against the spread of COVID-19. Those sanctions were extended today until at least December 21, according to a tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for the organization,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said this week. “So you can kind of go down the line. You know, what is first and foremost? The players. What does the practice facility look like? What would be the accommodations around the medical facilities, the medical treatment? Obviously you need to have an arena that fits NBA standards. There’s a ton of broadcast issues. There’s health and safety. There’s availability for arena dates. There’s a ton of stuff there.”
The Raptors don’t have much time to work out the logistics of playing in Florida. Next season starts in 32 days and the league plans to open training camps on December 1.
The team had been hoping to reach a solution that would let it return to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Team officials were working with the NBA on health concerns and were optimistic that they had a proposal that would meet with government approval.