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Raptors to begin 2020-2021 season in Tampa

Toronto RaptorsAfter being denied permission by the Canadian federal government to play home games at Scotiabank Arena under strictly controlled conditions, the Toronto Raptors announced the team would play home games at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

“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,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a press statement. “These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. 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.”

The decision by the Canadian federal government came down to a simple rationale: COVID-19 rates in the United States are too high, and even with the controlled circumstances proposed by the Raptors, the risk was too high that the coronavirus could be transmitted by players and staff. As of now, the decision is viewed as being temporary and will likely be reviewed after the beginning of 2021, assuming COVID-19 rates fall in the United States.

Currently the U.S.-Canada border is closed to nonessential travel, and those traveling to Canada must undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Several cities were eyed as potential homes for the Raptors, including Fort Lauderdale, Newark and Nashville, while other cities, like Kansas City and Louisville, were pushed by local officials.

NBA training camps open Dec. 1, with games launching on Dec. 22. The move by the Raptors makes it highly unlikely that Tampa will be an NHL hub city. There are still plenty of details to be worked out that will interest both the Lightning and the Raptors when it comes to Amalie Arena, including whether fans will be allowed into early-season games and, if so, how many.

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